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Just two weeks after officially beginning his duties as Philadelphia’s city solicitor, Pedro Ramos has reached back into his past to make his first major staff hire. Blank Rome employee benefits partner John Nixon will leave the firm to become chairman of the city law department’s corporate and tax group — one of the five senior positions within its management structure. Nixon will replace Dan Cantu-Hertzler, who will become chief deputy in the regulatory affairs department, which Ramos said better fits his background as an environmental lawyer. Ramos, who is acting city solicitor until a formal confirmation vote from City Council later this month, said he put out a call to Nixon shortly after being tapped for the city solicitor position in January. “I wanted someone with a background in a commercial setting who had some stature and a reputation for getting things done,” Ramos said. “I’ve known John personally and professionally for a number of years, and I thought he’d be perfect. I was pleasantly surprised when I floated the idea of public service to John, he was very interested.” Ramos replaced Nelson Diaz on March 1. Ironically, Diaz just announced his return to Blank Rome last week. “I don’t believe in coming in and changing a whole bunch of things off the bat,” Ramos said. “I just thought this was an important job, and John brings a tremendous knowledge of government, and he’s used to working in an environment where the highest quality work is expected.” Ramos first met Nixon when the two matriculated at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1980s. When New Orleans native Nixon graduated in 1985, he moved on to the University of Michigan Law School, and Ramos joined him a year later. Nixon admitted that it will be a switch moving from ERISA work to corporate and tax, but he does not anticipate it being a problem. As with anyone exchanging the incomes generated as a partner at large firm for a more modest salary in the public service sector, Nixon debated his decision before accepting the job. “I respect Pedro as a lawyer and a friend, and when someone of his caliber asks you to serve, you do the best to accommodate him,” Nixon said. Nixon said he has an affinity for public service because his wife, Deborah, is an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia’s homicide division. He will start his new job on March 29, giving himself some time to transfer client files to other Blank Rome lawyers and wrap up some matters. He described his practice as being 40 percent private sector work, 40 percent government pension plans and 20 percent executive compensation. He advises public and private employers in the design, implementation and maintenance of pension, retirement and welfare benefits programs and deals with issues such as fiduciary duties under federal ERISA or applicable state statutes. After graduating from University of Michigan Law, Nixon returned to Philadelphia and joined Saul Ewing, where he spent five years as an associate. He joined Blank Rome in 1993 and made partner in 1999. The law department’s roughly 40-attorney corporate and tax group reviews and negotiates most of the city’s contracts, leases, bonds, and other commercial and real estate documents; provides legal counsel on major economic development projects; represents the city on delinquent tax collections; and handles all city tax sales and bankruptcy matters.

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