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23 Feb 2024

Requiem for “The Voice Of Council”

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February 23, 2024 Category: Commentary, Local Posted by:

With the death of Chief Clerk Michael Decker, Philadelphia City Council has lost one of its institutions.

By Denise Clay-Murray

Unless you’re like me and you find yourself in City Hall’s Room 400 every Thursday, chances are you have no idea who Michael Decker is.

Philadelphia City Council Chief Clerk Michael Decker

But for those of us who regularly attend, listen to, or watch City Council meetings know Decker as, for want of a better way to put it, the “Voice of City Council.” Decker, Council’s Chief Clerk, is the person who reads every bill and resolution that is introduced in Council, communications from the mayor’s office, and the name of every person who comes to the podium for public comment

(He also manages to keep a straight face when people take the microphone and say the kinds of things that make the audience giggle at times. I don’t know where the guy who started his public comment with the phrase “This is an official decree…” has been since Council started having in-person sessions, but I miss him.)

To say that Decker is one of Council’s institutions would be an understatement.

Now normally, I wouldn’t be talking about Chief Clerk Michael Decker in this column, mostly because, and I looked this up, Decker doesn’t do interviews. And many of us in the press corps have asked. When you’ve worked for an organization for 36 years, you’ve probably got some interesting stories to tell.

But I’m writing about him this week because there was no Council session on Thursday, and the reason for this is that Chief Clerk Decker died on Tuesday. He was 58.

Decker began his career with Philadelphia City Council in the Council Clerk’s office in 1988. In 2007, he was appointed Deputy Chief Clerk and became the Chief Clerk in 2009, replacing former Chief Clerk Pat Rafferty.

He served under three Council presidents: the late Anna Verna, Council’s first female president, Darrell Clarke, and current Council President Kenyatta Johnson.

Grief counseling has been made available to Council members, Council President Johnson said.

“Michael’s dedicated service spanning 36 years in City Council has left an indelible mark on the city, and his sudden departure this week continues to leave everyone in shock and mourning,” Johnson said in a statement. “During this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers are with Michael’s family, friends, and colleagues. We share in the sorrow of his loss and will forever cherish the memories of his unwavering dedication to the betterment of Philadelphia. Please join us in keeping Michael’s loved ones in your thoughts and prayers.”

While he didn’t sit down for interviews with the press, he was helpful to us. If we had any questions about Council, how it works, or questions about bills, he answered them. My colleague and Philadelphia Hall Monitor co-host Larry McGlynn told me before I sat down to write this column that when he first started covering City Council, Decker helped him a lot.

There was no information on services for Decker as of this writing.

Council is scheduled to reconvene on Feb. 29.

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, The Philadelphia Sunday SUN, the author’s organization, committee or other group or individual.

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