Ellen Mattleman Kaplan
Vice President and Policy Director
Ellen arrived at the Committee of Seventy in April, 2005, to work with its new President and CEO Zack Stalberg to reenergize the over 100-year old non-partisan organization. She even said she would start by helping build Seventy’s fundraising operation, one of her least favorite chores, just to get her foot in the door.
Ellen’s passion for Seventy’s mission – fighting for the education of citizens, efficient and effective government, fair and well-run elections and integrity in government – started when she was born into a non-stop-talking family of Philadelphia political junkies. Decades later, nothing has changed. Fortunately, her husband, Steve, and two children, Emily and Alex, are equally smitten with discussing the intricacies of legal, political and governmental issues.
After Seventy realized that fundraising was best left to others, Ellen moved over to head up the policy agenda. She is especially proud of Seventy’s emergence as a group willing to speak up when other organizations either can’t or won’t on issues as diverse as:
• Making Government More Efficient:
Two documents – “Tackling True Reform” and “The Budget Address We Need to Hear” – talked about what government should be doing to build a better future for Philadelphia.
• Shaping Law:
Seventy has been the most vigorous defender of the city’s campaign finance law that has help cripple “pay-to-play” in Philadelphia. We have helped spearhead ethics reforms to make government cleaner.
• Demystifying Complex Issues:
Seventy’s “How Philly Works" series makes sense out of complex city issues, ranging from the city’s pension crisis to the Delaware River Port Authority to infighting in the local GOP.
• Searching for Solutions:
Our “Roadmap to Reform” recommends common sense and achievable solutions to city issues – including eliminating four archaic row offices (the Clerk of Quarter Sessions has already been abolished) and enacting strong ethics measures across government.
• Spurring Action:
The Committee of Seventy is leading the fight to kill the controversial DROP retirement program for city workers.
• Helping Voters:
Once known only for its Voter Protection Program on Election Day, Seventy now has a round-year program to help improve the voting experience in Philadelphia. We have urged replacing elected City Commissioners, who are ward leaders, with a professional elections board that provides better customer service to city voters.
Ellen’s road to Seventy has included many stops along the way.
After graduating from Princeton University in 1975 with an A.B. in History and a Certificate in Russian Area Studies (no – I don’t remember how to speak Russian anymore), she worked in San Francisco for a year as a paralegal. It didn’t turn her off to the law, so she came back to Philadelphia to attend Temple Law School. After earning her J.D. in 1979, Ellen clerked for the Honorable James R. Cavanaugh on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania was a Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney during Ed Rendell’s first term as DA.
A planned short maternity leave stretched into ten years at home raising her kids – and taking on free-lance writing assignments. Ellen then became the Associate Director for Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts (PMC), a statewide not-for-profit, non-partisan organization that engages in education, research, advocacy and analysis of issues related to the improvement of Pennsylvania’s judicial system (including the elusive merit appointment system for appellate judges).
In 1999, Ellen was the Issues Director for Sam Katz’s 1999 mayoral campaign – referred to by her kids as “the time Mom was never home.” It was a great way to learn a little bit about many, many challenges facing Philadelphia. Over ten years later, many of the same problems are still around.
Ellen then became the Managing Director of Public Policy and Communications at Greater Philadelphia First (GPF), a regional business and civic leadership organization comprised of 50 CEOs of the region’s largest employers. Highlights included developing and implementing state and local policy initiatives and directing the office’s communications efforts. She spearheaded the participation of GPF companies in the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program, wrote the report of the Task Force on Schools-Business Partnerships for the Philadelphia School Reform Commission and co-directed Liberty Medal 2002 honoring then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Ellen was Acting Chief Executive Officer during GPF’s merger with the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
Then the Committee of Seventy job came along – a decision she only regrets when she’s still at work at 10 p.m.
Ellen can be reached for anyone who wants to talk about what Seventy does.
Vice President for Development and Operations
My first fight for good government began in high school—working to reinstate a school board member forced to resign for some inane reason. We lost, but I learned a valuable lesson--to effect change you had to take an active role. Government of a school, town, city, state, nation effects everything we do—jobs, taxes, housing, etc.
Some thirty years later, having worked for nonprofits from healthcare systems to museums, I find the Committee of Seventy’s fight for good government an invigorating opportunity. Not being able to bankroll the fight personally, I enjoy fundraising for the cause--matching donor interests with Seventy’s programming is what “effecting change” is all about.
Highlights of my path to the Committee of Seventy in January 2009 include most recently serving as a Senior Consultant for Schultz & Williams, and other posts such as Vice President of Development for Presbyterian Medical Center, Executive Director of Cooper Medical Center Foundation, and as a former Board President of Contact Community Services.
I joined Seventy, after graduating from Temple University, in 2008. I have learned over the years that for government to work effectively and efficiently, you need to have an organization that is fighting for the betterment of the City. Seventy's continued fight to right-size city government, ensure that elections are conducted fairly and informing and engaging Philadelphia's citizenry will make this city a place where people will want to live, work and visit. I enjoy being part of that fight each and every day.
Voting Programs Assistant
Molly is a Pittsburgh native who has been living in her adopted city of Philadelphia since graduating from Haverford College in 2011. After spending a year working at a Philadelphia elementary school she is excited to join the Committee of Seventy in its mission to ensure effective government and fair elections.