She is a former President of the Philadelphia City Council on which she served from 1975 to 2012, as the representative of the Second District, which encompasses most of South Philadelphia as well as most of the western end of Center City.
Anna C. Verna broke the glass ceiling in Philadelphia politics in 1999 when she became the first woman in Philadelphia’s 300-year history to achieve the Council presidency. In January 2008, she began her third full term as Council President, and her ninth term as a member of the Philadelphia City Council, representing the Second Council District, which includes Center City, South and Southwest Philadelphia. Anna C. Verna believes in, and lives by, the values of hard work, perseverance and integrity.
As Chair of the Finance Committee from 1991 through 1998, she was instrumental in helping to craft and implement the financial plan to restore fiscal stability to a city on the verge of bankruptcy. During that time, Mayor Ed Rendell and his staff depended on her legislative and financial expertise to guide complex bond re-financings through the committee, resulting in savings of over $1 billion to city taxpayers.
During her Finance Committee tenure, she investigated excessive spending and costs at the Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW), resulting in a complete overhaul of the leadership of PGW and spending practices at PGW. Verna was particularly incensed by the unnecessary spending at a time when PGW leadership was attempting to dismantle programs that assisted truly needy people with their gas bills. Eventually, several PGW officials were charged with improprieties related to spending. Through the leadership and oversight of President Verna, PGW bore more fiscal responsibility and maintained social responsibility through heating assistance programs for the poor and elderly.
President Verna is a strong proponent of tax reductions and a firm believer that Philadelphia’s status as one of the least business-friendly cities in the United States must be reversed in order to propel the city’s economy not only through but into the 21st century. She has been a consistent supporter of wage and business tax reductions while remaining firmly committed to public services.
President Verna has championed the need to protect the quality of life for Philadelphians from all walks of life. She sponsored the property tax reform bill that freezes tax assessments and tax rates for low income senior citizens. To help fight crime, President Verna successfully fought for $6,000,000 in funding in the city’s operating budget for an additional 100 police officers and has been a strong supporter of curfew centers. In December 2006, Council passed a bill she strongly advocated calling for $30,000,000 of the city’s more than $150 million budget surplus to be set aside for the capital program needs of recreation, police and fire facilities. She has ensured additional funding to improve public education. President Verna has sponsored initiatives to investigate dropout rates, to regulate nuisance bars and stop-n-gos in Philadelphia, to institute a citywide ban on public drinking and to fight an ill-advised trash-to-steam project that would have cost the city millions of additional dollars in trash removal costs.
President Verna has made the renovation of housing stock in neighborhoods and affordable housing a top priority. She has worked with numerous community-based organizations to build hundreds of affordable homes throughout the Second Council District and was honored by the Pennsylvania Association of Non-Profit Homes for the Aging as their statewide “Public Official of the Year” for her work in providing affordable housing for senior citizens. She was an early supporter of the Housing Trust Fund, which provides an additional $14 million annually for affordable housing programs in the City of Philadelphia.
In addition to her council duties, President Verna is an active member of the Order Sons of Italy in America, Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and a leading member of Philadelphia's Italian American community. President Verna is also a member of the Boards of the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia Art Museum, Philadelphia Orchestra, Philadelphia Historical Commission and the Board of City Trusts, which administers all of the City of Philadelphia's charitable trusts. She has served on the Board of Directors of numerous other charitable and civic boards and associations. She has been knighted by the Republic of Italy and honored with the title, “Commendatore” for her contributions as a leading member of Philadelphia’s social, cultural and civic communities.
President Verna has received an honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from Chestnut Hill College and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the Community College of Philadelphia.
Council President Verna and her late husband, Cavalier Severino Verna, are lifelong residents of South Philadelphia.