||It’s been a hectic first week in Larry Krasner’s administration, as Philadelphia’s new district attorney hired and fired dozens of staffers.
One recognizable name on the list of newbies? Nonprofit pro Arun Prabhakaran, who most recently spent nine years at Urban Affairs Coalition and is now Krasner’s chief of staff.
Prabhakaran’s background lends itself easily to the role in the uber-progressive politician’s administration. As UAC’s senior VP and chief external affairs officer, he acted as an “internal CEO” to Sharmain Matlock-Turner’s “external CEO” for the multi-service, 500-employee nonprofit.
Way before that, though, he worked at more radical organizations, including Kensington Welfare Rights Union and Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, and as a board member for Bread & Roses Community Fund.
During a call from his cell while rushing to the funeral of fallen firefighter Matthew LeTourneau Friday morning, Prabhakaran said he’d known Krasner since 2000, when Krasner served as the defense attorney for protestors arrested during the Republican National Convention; Prabhakaran was working at the time as KWRU’s assistant education director.
The two were also neighbors in Mt. Airy for years.
“Early on [in Krasner’s campaign] I was advising him as a friend in my off hours on the weekends,” Prabhakaran said. Once elected, Krasner asked him to join his administration as chief of staff. “I said I’d have to think, for a long time.”
Eventually, Prabhakaran said yes, coming to the conclusion while on a family vacation touring sites of the American civil rights movement. “The pivotal moment” came while visiting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s home and listening to a recorded speech on the importance of giving oneself up to the greater cause.
“I got the feeling I might have to go help this gentleman, Larry Krasner, run this office,” Prabhakaran recalled.
Prabhakaran said his goals for his new role are to build a more transparent culture and “ultimately make sure we restore the honor of the office” following the tenure of Seth Williams, who is currently serving five years in federal prison following bribery and corruption charges.
Though the first few days of Krasner’s takeover have proven to be “intense,” Prabhakaran says he’ll be spending his initial weeks building trust within the office and the larger Philadelphia community. Whether he and Krasner can do that under the media microscope remains to be seen.