For an introduction to the novel Taking Care of Business, links to all chapters posted so far, and a list of characters who have appeared so far, go here, to the Taking Care of Business resources page. To see every part of Taking Care of Business posted so far in one place, go here.)
“Take your seats, please. We’re going to begin in a minute.”
So spoke Rikki Johnston, the mayor’s press secretary. She was in the mayor’s reception room, and reporters were gathering, talking quietly among themselves and trying to guess what the subject of this hastily convened press conference might be. Only two of the four local television stations that broadcast news were present, and their camera operators were making one last check of the lighting.
“Okay, everyone,” Johnston announced from the podium, “here’s Mayor Norbert.”
Norbert strode purposefully into the room and approached the microphone.
“Good morning, everyone.”
He began speaking – without notes.
“As you all know, we’ve enjoyed tremendous success with the re-engineering of our streets department under the extraordinary leadership of Commissioner Shaniqua Watson. With her guidance, that department has reached an unprecedented, and some would say unimagined, level of performance. Commissioner Watson has demonstrated to us all what a tremendous difference one person can make.
“We have many city departments, though, but we haven’t been able to find any more Shaniqua Watsons, so I’ve concluded that she’s much too talented a public servant, administrator, and leader for us to limit her influence to just one city department.
“For this reason, I’m pleased to announce that effective immediately, I’m promoting Shaniqua to the new post of deputy mayor for productivity and performance. In this role, Shaniqua will work closely with managing director Wilma O’Neill to identify new and better ways for city government to deliver services to the people of Philadelphia. Deputy commissioner James Van Impe will step up and take over as the streets department’s commissioner.
“Do you have any questions?”
The Gazette’s city hall reporter, Gene Dowler, was the first reporter to leap to his feet.
“Mr. Mayor, are you making this change at this particular time for political reasons? I ask because there are reports that you’ve been under a great deal of political pressure to fire Commissioner Watson and that this pressure may account for the budget problems you’re having with council, Governor Clayton, and the state legislature.”
“There’s nothing to that, Gene. How could anyone have a problem with better public services?”
The next questioner was Rochelle Adams, a radio station reporter.
“Mayor Norbert, will new Commissioner Van Impe retain Commissioner Watson’s innovative programs, like her telephone and internet hotlines and her twenty-four-hour service guarantees?”
“That’ll be up to the new commissioner. I don’t tell our managers how to run their operations, so that’ll strictly be his call.”
Norbert looked down, and for a brief, fleeting moment, a look of sadness and disappointment crossed his face. He sensed this and quickly forced a smile and looked up in anticipation of the next question.
(And that’s the end of the story. Thanks so much for reading.)