Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County
Edward Rendell became Pennsylvania's governor in 2003.
Born in 1944, Edward Gene Rendell is known in Pennsylvania for his numerous contributions to the state. He attended two Pennsylvania universities, served as the District Attorney, and worked in two legal offices. Rendell served as mayor of Philadelphia (1992-2000), and as Pennsylvania's governor (2003-2011).
Edward Gene Rendell was born on January 5, 1944, in New York City, New York, to parents Jesse and Emma Rendell. Growing up, Rendell, his brother Robert, and his parents lived in an apartment near the Hudson River. His father died of a heart attack when Rendell was a young boy, but much of his father lived on in himself, and everyone would see that later in life. From the fourth grade on, Rendell and brother Robert attended private schools in the city. He attended the prestigious Riverdale Country School for three out of the four years he was in high school, and in the 1961 yearbook from the school, the editors noted, "Eddie has a good chance for success in politics, his chosen profession."
After high school, Rendell attended the University of Pennsylvania. He joined the school government, in which he was extremely involved, and was a member of the Pi Lambda Phi "Jewish animal house" fraternity. Being so involved in extra-curricular activities, his grades suffered. He had wanted to attend University of Pennsylvania law school, and even placed second on the law boards of the Penn graduates applying to the law school, but because his grade point average was too low, he was not admitted. Instead, he went to Villanova Law School, where he graduated from in 1968. Many who knew him during law school shared the opinion that his future would be interesting, "as long as it had as little to do with the actual practice of law as possible."
During college and law school, his mother encouraged him to date and eventually marry a rich woman. He followed his mother's advice for a while, until he met Midge Osterlund. When he first met Midge, she was dating one of Rendell's friends. Because he was so interested in Midge, he made a deal with his friend that they could trade dates. In 1970, he proposed to her, and she agreed, knowing she would never find anyone else like him.
After graduating from Villanova law school, Rendell went to work at the district attorney's office in Philadelphia. Here, he gained a reputation of being passionate, but also for having a temper. Once he literally screamed at the governor for releasing a convict, and he also would put his foot through the door, punch holes in the wall or throw furniture when he was angry. Although he had quite a temper, he managed to work his way up the hierarchy. Soon he become the chief of the homicide unit, and remained there until he left the office in 1976.
In December of that year, he decided to run for District Attorney against the incumbent F. Emmett Fitzpatrick. In the beginning of the race, no one thought Rendell stood a chance, and Fitzpatrick even said "Ed who?" when asked publicly about his opponent. Despite the almost laughable desire to run, Rendell continued to work towards his goal and eventually had an easy win in both the Democratic primary and the general election. Rendell's personality made him very successful and well-liked while he was in this office. He was not afraid to share his feelings when he thought judges were not strict enough, and people liked him because he was always willing to spend time with the people of Philadelphia and help them work through their problems with the judicial system. In 1981, he ran for re-election and won in a landslide, but towards the end of the second term, it was clear that he was losing interest in the position.
In 1986, he decided to run for governor of Pennsylvania. Although he had been a big hit in Philadelphia, he could not pull off a win. The next year, he tried his luck again and ran for the position of mayor of Philadelphia. His campaign was little short of a disaster, and appeared dazed and without the passion he had shown before. Towards the end of the race, his advisors knew it was going to be a loss, and that he was not really interested in becoming mayor, besides the fact that it was a political position. Rendell's press secretary David Cohen told the press, "he had simply wandered from one losing election to another because he didn't know what else to do."
After the two straight losses, Rendell decided to go to work in the law office of Mesirov, Gelman, Jafe, Cramer & Jamieson, but it was obvious that he was not too happy with this job. Arthur Makadon, a political advisor that knew Rendell well said that while in the Mesirov firm, he was "a lost soul." Although by this time, he had somewhat faded out of the political spectrum, David Cohen still stuck by his side, and was his campaign manager when Rendell decided to run for mayor again in 1990. It was hard for him to raise enough money to officially announce his candidacy; however, once the polls showed that he might actually have a chance, money started to come in.
During the campaign, he tried a little bit of a different strategy, and listened much more than he talked. Soccer players came to him and told him their fields needed to be fixed, people came to him with money and job problems, and he listened. He did not shy away from the fact that the city was having financial problems, but he believed that the change must come from within, and not from the state or federal level. People admired his realistic approach, which helped his popularity. Also, he was running against two black Democrats, splitting the black vote, and eventually giving him the win in the primary. His opponent in this race was the former mayor Frank L. Rizzo. However, Rizzo passed away during the race, so Rendell effortlessly won the mayoral position.
As the mayor of Philadelphia from 1992 to 1999, Rendell did a lot to help the city. He managed to eliminate a $250 million deficit, he balanced the city's budget, and had five straight budget surpluses. He reduced business and income taxes and improved city neighborhood services. The New York Times said that Rendell's efforts as mayor proved to be the "most stunning turnaround in recent urban history," and Al Gore dubbed Rendell "America's mayor." He helped to revive Philadelphia's economy by showing the city six straight years of job gains after the years of job losses. Rendell also assumed responsibility of the poor by becoming the head of the housing authority, and engineered a $100 million empowerment zone for the neighborhoods in need.
After his two terms as mayor of Philadelphia were up, Rendell decided to participate in the 2000 presidential elections as the general chair of the Democratic National Committee. After the elections, Rendell started working as a partner in the law firm of Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP, and taught two government and politics courses at the University of Pennsylvania until 2002. It was not until 2003 that Rendell finally fulfilled his passion, and became governor.
As governor of Pennsylvania, Rendell showed a lot of the same progress as he did when he was mayor. According to the governor's website, he has "energized Pennsylvania's economy, revitalized communities, improved education, protected the environment and expanded access to health care to all children and affordable prescription drugs for older adults." He has helped to reduce property taxes by signing into law Pennsylvania's first measure to substantially reform the local tax system. He works towards making the government more responsible to its people by cutting unnecessary spending in order to have more money to spend on the needs of the people. Since he became governor, there has been a gain of 168,000 jobs in Pennsylvania, the unemployment rate has dropped, and has increased minimum wage for the first time in ten years. Through the Pennsylvania PACE and PACENET programs, there has been a sharp increase in the number of elderly people able to afford prescriptions, and Rendell won passage of the Growing Greener II environmental investment package to help clean rivers, parks, rebuild abandoned industrial sites, and preserving farmland.
Currently, Ed Rendell is still serving as the governor of Pennsylvania, and will be until 2011, after which his two four-year terms will have expired. As governor, he plans to continue to make life better for all the Pennsylvanians he can. He will continue to focus on available health care and prescriptions, less unemployment, and a cleaner environment. Eventually, Rendell would like to see all Pennsylvanians have health insurance, create more and more jobs, and enact even more programs to help the environment. He wants to help fund schools more, enhance teacher quality, and help low and middle-income families afford a higher education. Rendell also is trying to help schools take the initiative to serve healthier foods for children. He is working on a property tax reform that will provide tax relief through a Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. Rendell is also setting aside money to help and make roadways in Pennsylvania safer and repair bridges and highways. He still works as a partner at Ballard, Spahr, Andrews and Ingersoll, LLP when he is not doing his work as governor. Ed Rendell continues to be happily married to his wife Midge, who is now a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. They have a 26-year-old son, Jesse.
Bissinger, Buzz. A Prayer for the City. New York: Random House, 1997.