Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Career: Political Career

BOND: The clock is ticking down. Talk about being deputy mayor of Philadelphia.

LEFTWICH: Ah, that's a part of a network. When I was at the Ford Foundation running that project, a young man came in my office one day who was working for Allstate Insurance. And he was a community leader, and he had made some real changes in his neighborhood using urban planning and development techniques. And he wanted a new job, and his name was W. Wilson Goode.

I was ready to leave the foundation because I'd been tapped to go be troubleshooter for Model Cities. I said, "Aha! Just the person I need." We hired him. Gave him some orientation, but he knew housing. He knew the housing to work. Left him there. Went on to do what I had to do. He then subsequently went on to become a member of the Public Utilities Commission for Pennsylvania State. He called me up, said, "Should I do this?" I advised him. Then he was asked to be managing director of the city of Philadelphia. He called me up. I advised him. I said, "You should do this." Then he decided to run for mayor. Called me up. I came down to Philadelphia. We talked it through. I said, "You should do this." He then contacted me and said, "Would you come and run housing for me?" I said, "No, the governor of New York has just named me Commissioner of Housing for the state of New York. I cannot leave this job." But then the terrible tragedy of the MOVE fire.

BOND: The MOVE fire, yes.

LEFTWICH: — occurred. And he asked me if I would come and reorganize his office as deputy mayor. He had thousands of people in the Office of Mayor. Thirteen agencies. Tremendously bad span of control. And I said, "I really am tired of government." Now I had been commissioner of housing for three years which is a story all by itself. It was hard. Sometimes it was really hard. It was very rewarding and I was fully supported by the legislature, but it was a hard job. I went and I did that for— that reorganization for Wilson Goode. And then I quit, because I really had had enough public service.

My husband, my present husband, had created a business which was a system of non-depository banks. And using — he's a very creative person, understands entrepreneurship like I would never even begin to understand it. But I understand running things. And he created this system which grossed $7 million dollars a week. Had between 40 and 50,000 customers a week. And we ran that for eight years until the bank that we were using failed. Was taken over by FDIC, and we lost everything because FDIC insures only $100,000 of deposits. And we finally had to go out of business.

I left being deputy mayor to work with my husband on that project. But meantime, my daughter had — we have four children. My daughter, my second daughter, was working as an investment banker at a firm, African American firm, Pryor — was then Pryor, Govan, and Counts. Became Pryor, McClendon and Counts. I was invited to come help them open up some markets like Connecticut and Florida. So I left being deputy mayor, went into the private sector. Did that for a while for — in municipal finance. And then went to work on the business that my husband and I owned until 1991.