If Greg Paulmier wants to send one message to voters in the 8th District, it’s that he knows their problems. “I’ve lived here my whole life, I know what needs to be changed and what needs to be done,” he said.
The candidate graduated from Germantown Friends School and went on to higher education at the Community College of Philadelphia, Philadelphia University and then Temple University.
Paulmier discovered politics at an early age. His father, Lou Paulmier, encouraged him to become a committee person when Greg was 20 years old. Elected at 21, like his father, he became a Democratic committeeman in the 12th Ward. He moved up from becoming a committeeman to the ward leader—a position he held for four consecutive terms from 1994 through 2010.
The first course of action Paulmier undertook as a committee member was frustrating to him, and he still vividly recalls that memory. “A week after I got elected, I received a call from an elderly woman who said, ‘Greg, I have a problem on my block. We elected you to be our committee person and I need you to deal with it,’” Paulmier said. The problem turned out to be a longtime abandoned house on the 400 block of Winona Street. As a young, new committee person, Paulmier thought he would be able to get the city government involved. City officials didn’t respond. Paulmier kept calling, hoping the city would take notice of the problem. Weeks went by without change, which resulted in Paulmier becoming frustrated with the city’s inability to see this as a real problem. “Police were constantly called there, the [Department of Licenses and Inspections] were being called in to board it up and it was costing the city money,” Paulmier said.
Paulmier decided that he needed to take action himself instead of relying upon others to correct the eyesore. Paulmier acquired the abandoned house and got neighborhood contractors and those in need of employment in the area to work on it. They rehabilitated that house, and it taught Paulmier just how important jobs were to the community. “The beginning of my entry into politics was a real education and experience for me in learning the needs of the community,” Paulmier said.
Paulmier built up a reputation as someone who would be able to help fix the abandoned properties that are scattered throughout the district. “After we finished that first house, people came knocking at the door telling me of a house around the corner that was abandoned, and we went to work on that. That‘s how it started and I‘ve been doing that ever since, over 32 years,” Paulmier said. This has become a major arm of his campaign platform. He says that fixing vacant homes can increase property values, employ those out of work, teach people new trades and in the process, instill values of hard work and ethics in those involved. He also started a Habitat for Humanity affiliate during that time period with members of Mt. Airy.
The housing advocate’s rehabilitation and community outreach efforts have been diligent, but, if elected, the needs of the district will span wider and deeper than the demands he has fulfilled thus far for those he is serving. He will have a much more diverse group of constituents in the 8th District, which spans from the northern end at Chestnut Hill to the southern end with the area around Nicetown-Tioga. Tapping into each neighborhood is a challenge unto itself. Paulmier, if elected, said he plans to meet with residents to hear their concerns, which differ dramatically.
Some basic needs like policing and sanitation are important to most in the district, but entire sections of blighted blocks in Tioga may not be a priority to the affluent Chestnut Hill residents, who may be more concerned with keeping independent businesses alive along Germantown Avenue. Paulmier will have to address these conflicting needs if he takes the council seat.
According to the latest documents from the U.S. Census Beareu, the differences among the top end of the district and the bottom end are extremely noticeable. A major difference exists in the median home price with an average of $213,600 in the Chestnut Hill zip code and $30,200 in the Nicetown-Tioga zip code. That is a difference in price of $183,400. Besides the difference in median home price, median age varies drastically. 41.9 years of age is the average in the Chestnut Hill zip code while 30.1 years of age is the average in the Nicetown-Tioga zip code.
Population and race vary, too. Chestnut Hill and the 19118 zip code is comprised of 9,608 individuals with 79.4 percent white, 15.3 percent African-American, 2.3 percent Asian and also 2.3 percent Hispanic or Latino. Nicetown-Tioga and the 19140 zip code is comprised of 57,125 individuals with 13 percent being white, 60.7 percent African-American, 1.3 percent Asian and 34.5 percent Hispanic or Latino. These differences show just how different life can be for people separated by a few miles.
Paulmier said he wants to start off on a different footing than he did when he was first elected as a committee person many years ago. Instead of that elderly woman reaching out to him for help, he said he wants to be the one who reaches out to his constituents. “My first obligation as a district council person is to ask the community members what they need and what they want,” he said. By prompting the region to speak out, he said he will only legislate on things that they ask him to address.
As of March 28, Paulmier has spent $39,999 on his campaign. He has spent time canvassing all over the district. His signs exist throughout the area outside of Chestnut Hill houses or the sidewalks in front of row homes in Nicetown-Tioga.
He has been recommended by Americans for Democratic Action, along with opponent Cindy Bass and has been endorsed by the Chestnut Hill Residents Association. While this may be his fourth time running for the seat, Paulmier said he sees that as experience–as time spent learning what needs to be done. “Success takes Persistence” is his motto, which can be seen on different campaign papers and literature that line the table of his campaign headquarters at 427 W. Coulter St. in Germantown.
“If elected, I would first meet with members of each of the distinct communities that make up this district and engage them in the process of deciding how we move forward,” Paulmier said. “I have some ideas, I have a lot of experience, but I want to hear from the taxpayers as to how they would like to approach these problems.”