Jane Slusser majored in political science and history at Barnard but, she confesses, “I had a really hard time all throughout college getting engaged in politics.” That changed when Barack Obama emerged on the national stage. She volunteered for his presidential campaign during the primary and eventually quit her job as an associate editor at Oxford University Press to be a deputy field organizer in South Philadelphia for the campaign.
Today, Slusser is chief of staff for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, who was elected last November. Initially she served as the campaign manager for another candidate, but when he withdrew from the race, Kenney declared his candidacy and hired Slusser to steer his campaign. Kenney, a longtime city councilman known for his tell-it-like-it-is personality, was a late entrant without much money or many endorsements, but he went on to win the election by 30 percentage points.
Slusser’s first months as chief of staff have been busy—her days are typically comprised of nonstop meetings from 8:30 a.m. until well beyond 5 p.m., after which she finally has time to kick back and fall asleep watching TV. One of her main tasks is managing the information that comes in for the mayor and the instructions he issues to his staff. “It’s hard for people to say no to the mayor, and it’s hard for the mayor to say no to people,” she says.
In January, the city faced a blizzard that dumped 22 inches on the city. “After you’re a local government official, you never see snow the same way again,” Slusser jokes. Things show no signs of slowing down until after this summer’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. In the end, though, the endless meetings and weekends at the office are worth it, she says: “In a year where people hate politicians more than ever, I think we still have a lot of great public servants.”