Are you, like me, looking for a reason to find hope amidst what can often seem like the rubble of our public life? Well, I’m happy to say you’ve come to the right place. Because I am here with not one, but five reasons to be inspired.Namely, our 2022 Philadelphia Integrity Icons:

  1. Rebecca Lopez Kriss, a deputy commissioner in the City’s Revenue Department
  2. Lori Maple Hayes, director of urban forestry
  3. Stephanie Ridgeway, Indego community organizer
  4. Leah Wood, paraprofessional
  5. Lauren Young, director of K-12 math curriculum

These are Philadelphia public servants you mostly won’t have read about (until now); they are not politicians, in it for power, or glory. They are in it for Philly, for you and me and all our neighbors. They are—dare we say it?—the principled heroes we need.

Why does this matter? It matters because we live in a city where every other month brings a new corruption scandal (see: Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson’s federal corruption trial which started this week); where too much complacency from our elected leaders and our bureaucrats has left us with the Philly Shrug (see: pathetic voter turnout); because we are desperate to know that someone has our back in the giant machine of Philadelphia city government. It matters because too often bad behavior comes out on top—and we want to change that.

Integrity Icon is a program of D.C.-based Accountability Lab, which since 2012 has held competitions for the highest integrity civil servants in 15 countries around the world. After hearing from Accountability Lab at our 2018 Ideas We Should Steal Festival, we partnered with the organization in 2020 to make Philadelphia the first American city to hold an Integrity Icon contest.

We announced our first five icons late 2020; they were, and are, awesome examples of Philadelphians doing right by their fellow Philadelphians. (You can read about them here.)

We launched our second contest in October, along with Better Civics and Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM), and collected nominations throughout the fall. After vetting the candidates and narrowing the submissions, we asked our esteemed panel of judges to make the final decisions. They are Michael O’ Bryan, founder of strategic design firm Humanature and a Generation Change Philly fellow; Nilda Ruiz, executive director of APM; Jen Devor, co-founder of Better Civics and a Generation Change Philly fellow; and Amy Kurland, former Inspector General of the City of Philadelphia.

Now, we’re kicking it back to you to vote for the people’s choice winner among our 2022 Icons. See below (or on this YouTube playlist) for short videos about each of them.

All of the winners will be fêted at a public celebration on April 7, at Fitler Club, when we will announce the top vote-getter. We will also take the opportunity to celebrate last year’s winners (who we honored virtually) in person: Paul Robeson High School principal Richard M. Gordon IV; Central High School teacher and Philly Youth Vote founder Thomas Quinn; K-12 social studies curriculum specialist Shaquita Smith; history teacher and president of We Love Philly Carlos Aponte; and public health advocate Dr. Ruth Abaya.

Article originally published in The Philadelphia Citizen