Jenné Ayers wanted to become a pediatric neurosurgeon. She planned her life around achieving that goal.
But while volunteering at a hospital while still an undergraduate at Harvard College Ayers had an epiphany.
“I realized I cared more about why the people ended up in the hospital than the actual medical procedures,” Ayers, 26, told Metro.
Two weeks ago Ayers, the daughter of former Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, announced her run for an at-large seat on the Philadelphia City Council in the May 19 primary election.
She's since been fundraising at a brisk pace and assembling a team of volunteers to help her plan a strategy for the next 133 days – a timetable that also includes graduating from Yale Law School in May.
The burden hasn't dented Ayers' confidence that she'll win the seat.
“If people turn up to the polls and if they really use their collective voice and power, I have a good chance of winning,” Ayers said. “There are so many people that want to see a breath of fresh air in City Hall.”
Ayers wants to help ensure City Council is cohesively lobbying Harrisburg for education funding. She supports centralizing social services in locations like community centers or schools or moving them online to improve accessibility for vulnerable families.
“These are things that 10, 15, 20 years from now that are going to make Philadelphia a very strong city,” she said.
She also said her work as a consultant after college will help her tap philanthropic funds for the city.
“Philadelphia’s at an important crossroads,” Ayers said. “We’ve seen so much success. When I walk around downtown, within even 10 years, you can see a lot of development. But then when I walk around my grandmother’s old neighborhood in North Philadelphia, it’s not doing well at all.”
While Ayers supports the Nutter administration’s focus on attracting high-tech jobs in the education and medical fields to the city, she also wants to see business investment in Philadelphia that creates blue-collar jobs.
“A City Councilperson at-large can make a difference,” said longtime political observer Larry Ceisler. “They're one vote among a body of 17, but we have to start somewhere as a city in terms of making government accountable.”
Another political observer, Jim Foster, said he believes the race is wide open to new candidates.
“Even though some people will say all elections in Philadelphia are sort of rigged in advance, I think if there are (seats) that might not be as much, it’s those [at-large seats],” he said.
Ayers is one of six Democratic candidates currently running for an at-large council seat, including former City Councilman Frank Rizzo Jr., attorney Sherrie Cohen, Reading Terminal manager Paul Steinke,andGeorge Matysik of Philabundance.
All at-large seats are up for vote in May, including the two Republican and five Democratic seats. The five Democratic candidates with the most votes at the election will win those five seats.