D.C. Mayor Election 2010: Who will hire Adrian Fenty?

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Adrian Fenty at the Ward 4 debate and straw poll in August. Fenty lost, which was seen as a major blow since he has lived his entire political life there. (Photo: Jay Westcott)

Updated with grammar corrections and a couple more details.

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Who will hire Adrian Fenty?

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If we believe polls, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty is about to be fired.

And if the District’s residents give him the heave-ho on Tuesday, Fenty will leave office amid concerns about his ethical standards and ability to work well with others. He’ll be entering the job market during an economic downturn, when the unemployment rate in the city he has always called home was 9.8 percent in July.

He is one half of a two-income household (His wife, Michelle, is a practicing lawyer), that supports three children who live on property last assessed at $1,090,060. During his term, he’s been making about $200,000 a year. Before that, he wasn’t doing too badly as a councilmember, either, at around $90,000 a year.

It’s been a while since Fenty, who has never lost an elected office he has sought, was a private citizen in need of a job. So, who will hire Adrian Fenty — the man who became the youngest mayor of D.C. ever at 35 and would leave office at 40?

“I run my elections right through the campaign and only after they are over do I start thinking about what happens next,” Fenty said, when asked if he had thought about his next step. “You leave everything on the court.”

This is what Fenty has on the court: He’s an alum of Oberlin College, where he studied English and economics. He has a law degree from Howard University, but he received an informal admonition in 2005 (of which much hay was made during Fenty’s 2006 run for mayor) and is currently an inactive member of the District of Columbia Bar.

Before he was elected as Ward 4’s representative on the D.C. Council where he served for six years, he served as an advisory neighborhood commissioner and a staffer for then-Councilmember Kevin Chavous.

“I think the first step for him is going to be one of introspection, Chavous says. "He’s got to figure out what he wants to do and how he wants to do it. Hopefully he'll learn from this experience and be genuine when he pursues opportunities.”

It doesn’t look like Fenty could end up working again for Chavous — a national education reform advocate — even if he wanted to.

"Oh, I'm not in a position to hire anyone right now,” Chavous says. “It depends on what he wants to do. I think he's clearly got some skills. But so much of it starts with him and where his head is.”

The same answer goes for Fenty’s alma mater from his law school days. What about Howard’s Department of Political Science? Would it consider taking on the mayor as a lecturer? Department chairman Daryl Harris said he hadn’t given the idea much thought, but it wouldn’t go over well with some students and members of the faculty. Harris said many on campus disagree with Fenty’s policy decisions — his moves to reform education, failure to stop the spread of gentrification, and the commonly reported feeling that Fenty stopped connecting with his community.

“I could see some of my other colleagues in the same field that I work in being quite critical and wondering have I lost my mind,” he said.

That’s not to say Harris didn’t see any pluses. He said Fenty could offer students an interesting perspective of the District’s unique government. And the move could be a boon for the university, which he said often doesn’t reach out to former politicians or other practitioners.

“In my mind, I see it as probably a good thing,” he said. “Even with the fact that Fenty has had problems connecting with people. I don't think it would be a bad thing.”

That’s not the most solid of recommendations, but Fenty has plenty of glowing ones from the Washington Post and several job possibilities remain.

Human resources: Fenty has an eye for potential talent. He plucked D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee from the nonprofit world, and he hired Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier, who remains popular in the city. (Rhee is a more controversial figure.)

“They have made sizable changes in public safety, in education and the reforms of those two areas. Now that may be unpopular to say, but I’m looking at results at the end of the day,” says Jacque Patterson, president of the Ward 8 Democrats, a group that endorsed Fenty's rival D.C. Council Chairman Vince Gray after he won its straw poll. “So if he’s going to go into something, his ability to pick people that are not the traditional person in certain areas in public policy, his ability to do that, I give him an A-plus. … His ability to think outside the box has been great.”

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