John Baer: With his national exposure growing, might Nutter get Obama appointment?

MAYOR Nutter's grabbing some down time on vacation. I figure I'll seize the moment for speculation about his future.

Seems to me Hizzoner's headed into a second term (oh, he's not?) with a clear eye on pumping up his national profile.

Shedirects Nutter's "offense."

And, yeah, he's already had high-end exposure on "Meet the Press," "Hardball," NBC's "Education Nation" and such, along with White House visits and attention on big-deal national issues.

Recently he put out a statement on the federal debt-ceiling fight, which is not, I imagine, a problem high on the list of most Philadelphians. And he's in line to be president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors next spring.

This gives him a national soapbox and makes him the No. 1 advocate for big cities during President Obama's re-election campaign - a campaign reliant on residents of big cities.

So I'm thinking that even though Nutter didn't back Obama back in '08 (he backed Hillary Clinton), that was then and this is now.

The mayor recently hung with the prez at a Philly fundraiser. Earlier this month, Nutter was one of six mayors cited by the White House for calling for a balanced approach to debt negotiations. Last month, Nutter was one of 14 mayors meeting Obama at the White House to talk about the economy.

My guess is they're a little closer these days.

Which raises questions: Might there be a spot for Nutter in (what I think will be) a second Obama administration, and is Nutter committed to serving a full, four-year second term as mayor?

I ask his communications director, Desiree Peterkin Bell, who says, "His focus is first on November."


(Actually, a predictably safe answer.)

But if you're thinking, "Peterkin what?" you're not alone. She's Nutter's low-profile maestro of message, another factor in what strikes me as Nutter's expanding presence.

She directs, in her words, "the offense," the planning/delivery of the mayor's message of the day, week and month. Could be a focus on summer jobs; could be an "iPledge Campaign" with Clear Channel and others on duty to community. She directs such efforts "locally, regionally and nationally."

The emphasis is mine.

Bell is young, 33; started with Nutter last September at $150,000 (subject to a 5 percent pay cut), and carries interesting credentials.

A Brooklyn native, she's a Swarthmore grad with a master's in public policy from the Baruch School of Public Affairs, City University of New York. She was accepted to Yale Law, but after briefly working at a New York firm became disillusioned with the high-end practice and opted for public service. She's married, lives in Philly and has a 3-year-old daughter.

She downplays my theory of active image expansion, noting that Philly's size and Nutter's leadership in the mayors' conference draws attention anyway. But I think she's ducking, perhaps looking to avoid any chance she's seen as a national promoter paid with local tax dollars.

She previously worked for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, especially on his '02 indoor-smoking ban, and was Newark Mayor Cory Booker's communications chief prior to coming to Philly.

She doesn't mention it when we talk, but I later discover that she was a five-time NCAA Division III All-America in track and field at Swarthmore, for indoor/outdoor triple jump.

So she's experienced with national media and knows when to hop, skip and jump. Such assets are useful, whether managing message or pumping profile.

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