Civic News
Municipal government / Social media

Meet the woman who keeps Mayor Kenney’s Twitter weird

As the city's first digital director, Stephanie Waters' chief responsibility is communication. And just letting Mayor Kenney be himself.

Frank Paskiewicz, VP of Cargo operations (courtesy Photo)

When Stephanie Waters took a job as Mayor Jim Kenney’s digital campaign director, she did her background research — and it was a little nervewracking.
“When you research Jim Kenney and Twitter,” she said, “a lot of stuff comes up.”
(We’ll fill in some of the blanks here and here.)
But Waters, 28, was pleasantly surprised to find that Kenney was so engaged and excited about expressing himself via Twitter. That, she said, is what makes her job fun.


It’s part of Kenney’s approachable, every-man vibe, a quality that his administration has taken to heart. Case in point? He hired Waters as the city’s first digital director, where she’ll be in charge of how the city communicates with its constituents online.
Waters, an Emerson grad who chose the public sector over the agency life, said it’s “long past time” that the city hired someone to do this job. She’ll work to streamline all the different ways that city government gets information out. (During the Nutter administration, departments experimented with a rag-tag bunch of ways to communicate: department blogs, Tumblr, Medium.)
First order of business upon Kenney’s inauguration? A new Twitter handle. The new @PhillyMayor is for the more official stuff, while @JimFKenney will still exist for, presumably, those classic Kenney quips.
Another one of Waters’ major jobs will be working as a liaison between the Office of Innovation and Technology and other departments to get the city’s new site up and running.
Waters was actually born in Collegeville, Pa., (her dad worked for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals) but grew up in Chicago. She made political ads there for a spell (“I love making political ads, which is a weird thing,” she said) before bouncing around the East Coast, working on former Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and former New Jersey senator Barbara Buono’s failed gubernatorial campaigns. She said she’s excited to set down roots in Philly — just off Washington Avenue, west of Broad.
“I finally feel like I’m in a place that I can call home,” she said last week in the Kenney campaign’s bare-bones offices on South Broad, where the team was posted up while moving into City Hall.
The creation of a digital director role suggests that Kenney is serious about communication and city services, not surprising given his early support of the city’s non-emergency 311 system. Waters said the same.
“We want this administration to be accessible,” she said.


As for Twitter, Kenney’s still got free reign over his Twitter. There are no rules or restrictions, Waters said. They don’t read over every tweet before it goes out.
“We don’t restrict him on that,” she said, “because it just isn’t going to work and he’ll be unhappy.”
We’d be unhappy too.

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