Meet the woman who keeps Mayor Kenney's Twitter weird - Philly


Jan. 7, 2016 11:51 am

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.

Stephanie Waters, the city's first digital director.

(Photo by Juliana Reyes)

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.

Juliana Reyes

Juliana Reyes became's editorial product lead after reporting on the Philadelphia tech scene for four years. She's co-president of the Asian American Journalists Association Philadelphia chapter and a two-time Philadelphia News Award winner for "Community Reporting of the Year." The Bryn Mawr College grad lives in West Philly, likes her food spicy and wears jumpsuits often.

  • IT_Pro47

    Very interesting. I wonder how many other major cities have someone in a similar position? Just goes to show how important the world of social media has become to the political process and daily life in general. Whether folks like it or not! 🙂

  • Ed Dougherty

    Just to add to the previous poster’s comments about how much the importance of a social presence in the political realm has surged in the past year or so, Kenney’s Twitter feed, far from an incidental consideration, turned out for me to be the driver of my enthusiasm for his candidacy and, now, my optimism for his mayoralty. What came through in now-Mayor Kenney’s feed was the things he cares about, in ways that couldn’t be faked. Relative to the rest of the field, he distinguished himself in this way and moved well in front of the other candidates for his concerns, for what a Kenney administration would emphasize, for the corrections he saw that needed to be made (criminal justice reform, as a ‘for instance’). if I saw a Kenney TV ad, I can’t recall it, but I certainly understood what he cared about, in whose company he was comfortable (everyone, it seemed), and the simple hustle factor. Far from coasting after the primary, he seemed to accelerate his efforts. All this came through via Twitter. So to learn from this article that a Kenney administration wishes to platform from that lone-feed approach and work it outward throughout the city’s machinery is very encouraging. Other city officials who I think do a fine job of letting this fuller picture come through in their feeds include Council President Darrell Clarke, City Council-newcomer Helen Gym, and Fire Department official Joe Corrigan. At the Federal level, Senator Corey Booker retired the cup a long time ago. In all four cases, what emerges is a blend of policy, personality, passions and even mirth that engenders, for me, a confidence in the overall direction. Plus there’s always that two-way thing with Twitter: if I’m honked, they know it, and they respond. Great profile here.

    • Juliana Reyes

      Hey Ed, what’s your Twitter handle? I wanna point to this comment on our Twitter.

      • Ed Dougherty

        Hi, Juliana. It’s @ejdinPhilly


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