Rebecca Rhynhart was born in 1976 and grew up in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. She attended Middlebury College in Vermont, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in economics and environmental studies. Rhynhart went on to earn a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.
Working in Philadelphia Government
After completing her education, Rhynhart began working in local Philadelphia government. She started out serving as city treasurer under Mayor John Street. In this position, Rhynhart was responsible for managing municipal finances and investments.
As budget director for Mayor Michael Nutter, Rhynhart oversaw the city’s Five-Year Financial Plan and annual operating budget. She worked to improve Philadelphia’s bond rating during the Great Recession.
Later, as chief administrative officer for Mayor Jim Kenney, Rhynhart supervised core city operations including procurement, human resources, and information technology. This high-level managerial experience prepared her for an eventual run for elected office.
Running for Philadelphia City Controller
In 2017, Rhynhart decided to enter the race for Philadelphia City Controller as a Democrat. Winning the Democratic primary, she defeated more established candidates including three former members of City Council.
Defeating Republican candidate Mike Tomlinson in the general election, Rhynhart was elected as City Controller in November 2017. She became the first woman to hold the position.
Tenure as City Controller
As City Controller, Rebecca Rhynhart focused on conducting audits, identifying wasteful spending, and advocating for progressive policies.
Audits and reports issued by Rhynhart’s office highlighted contracting problems, excessive overtime pay, and other financial concerns. Her findings led to indictments of city employees and renewed focus on fiscal responsibility.
However, Rhynhart also faced criticisms and controversies during her time as Controller. She engaged in public feuds with other officials including Mayor Jim Kenney. Critics saw some of her audits as politically motivated or exaggerated.
Policy priorities and initiatives pursued by Rhynhart included reforming property assessments, expanding low-income water billing assistance, and improving language access services. She positioned herself as a progressive watchdog over city government.
Running for Mayor of Philadelphia
In February 2023, Rebecca Rhynhart announced she would run for Mayor of Philadelphia in that year’s election.
Entering the race, Rhynhart joined a crowded field of Democratic primary candidates. Her campaign emphasized her financial expertise and record as a reformer.
However, during the Democratic primary campaign, Rhynhart struggled to stand out. She trailed frontrunners like State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams in fundraising and endorsements.
Ultimately, Rhynhart came up short in the May 2023 primary election loss. She conceded defeat after earning only 7% of the primary vote, finishing fifth overall.
Life After Politics
Following her mayoral election defeat, Rebecca Rhynhart returned to private life.
She took a position with a Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization, returning to the private sector she had left to run for office.
Rhynhart also became involved in philanthropic activities supporting women running for elected office and city youth mentorship programs.
And importantly, she looked forward to spending time with family after years of nonstop political campaigns and governing responsibilities.
Legacy and Impact on Philadelphia
While no longer in elective office, Rebecca Rhynhart left an important legacy from her time in Philadelphia government.
As City Controller, she brought enhanced fiscal responsibility and oversight to municipal finances. Her audits and reports shone a light on areas needing reform.
Rhynhart gave voice to support for progressive policies like affordable water access and language services for immigrants. She advocated strongly for her vision of a more equitable city.
And as the first woman elected City Controller, Rhynhart served as an inspiration for women in politics. She overcame skeptics to win two citywide elections in Philadelphia.
Though she came up short in her bid to be Mayor, Rebecca Rhynhart’s political career exemplified public service and principles over personal political gain. Her impact helped shape a better Philadelphia.
Q: What position did Rebecca Rhynhart hold before becoming Philadelphia City Controller?
A: Rhynhart served as the city’s Budget Director under Mayor Michael Nutter prior to being elected Controller.
Q: How long was Rhynhart the City Controller for?
A: Rhynhart served one term as Controller from 2018 to 2022 before leaving office after 5 years.
Q: Who defeated Rebecca Rhynhart in the 2023 Democratic mayoral primary?
A: Multiple candidates finished ahead of Rhynhart, with State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams winning the nomination.
Q: What educational background did Rhynhart have?
A: She earned a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College and a master’s in public administration from Columbia University.
Q: What criticisms did Rhynhart face as City Controller?
A: She was criticized for exaggerated or politically motivated audits and public feuds with other officials like Mayor Kenney.