L&I commissioner Perri retires, is lauded for reforms

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The City of Philadelphia, last week, announced the retirement of the commissioner of the Department of Licenses and Inspections. It may sound like the ultimate bureaucratic reshuffling but it's not. Rather, it's the departure of someone who changed city government, for the better.

When David Perri took over L&I, the department already had a reputation...as the worst, most corrupt agency in city government.

But Perri's tenure, according to his successor, Ralph DiPietro, marked a sea change.

"The staff immediately trusted him and I can tell you, once he was named, there was a collective sigh of relief," he recalled.

"You could tell, you could feel it in the department and few folks, in my mind, could have stepped in at that particularly critical time and had that effect."

DiPietro listed a catalogue of attributes that made Perri successful in changing the culture of the department. The record of reforms he made is too long to tally here but some leap to the fore. Councilman Allan Domb praised his focus on building safety.

"He created a building safety division and increased inspector staffing across the board and he was able to use data to prioritize the demolition of dangerous buildings," remarked Domb.

Perri's values filtered down to a staff once known as either indifferent or on the take. He generated more revenue and issued more permits than any L&I commissioner in the city's history, and his was one department that worked almost full throttle through the COVID-19 shutdown.

Instead of taking a victory lap, after 39 years in city government, Perri declined all interview requests. But DiPietro took a crack at summing up his legacy.

"He was really the full package when it comes to commissioners."

Featured Image Photo Credit: Pat Loeb/KYW Newsradio