Boston’s new mayor Michelle Wu takes office, transition team works closely to enact change


photo courtesy of the city of Boston

Michelle Wu made history as the first woman and person of color sworn in as an elected mayor of Boston.

Jennifer Suryadjaja, news correspondant

Two weeks after winning the mayoral race, Michelle Wu made history as the first woman and person of color sworn in as an elected mayor of Boston. 

Wu took the oath of office in City Hall, surrounded by her family, campaign team, other supporters and elected officials on Tuesday. Among those in attendance were Governor Charlie Baker, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, Representative Ayanna Pressley, former acting mayor Kim Janey and former mayoral candidate and city councilor Annissa Essaibi George. City Council President Matt O’Malley began the swearing-in ceremony with a welcome speech for those in attendance.

“Much has been written about the long trek to freedom… That is certainly true today, but nevertheless even more special as we gather together for the swearing in for the first woman elected mayor, and the first person of color elected mayor in Boston’s 391-year history,” O’Malley said.

Fenway High School junior Eliana Rivas then led the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by an invocation by Rev. Arlene Hall, lead pastor at Deliverance Temple Worship Center.

Janey proceeded to deliver her remarks, recalling her childhood days in Roxbury and paying homage to notable people of color involved in politics in Massachusetts.

“For many in Boston, we were now able to see what is possible, that Boston could be a city for everyone, even those who had been marginalized,” Janey said. 

Janey, who endorsed Wu in her campaign against Essaibi George, closed her speech looking forward to Wu’s work for the city of Boston.

“As I leave office now as mayor, I feel good knowing that you share my love and my passion for Boston. I’m confident that you will lead our city with integrity and that you will center equity in all that you do,” Janey said. “I know that Boston is in good hands and I’m so proud to call you Madam mayor.”

Following Janey’s remarks, Wu stood next to her husband and children, Blaise and Cass, as she recited the oath of office, which was administered by Judge Myong J. Joun.

In her first speech as mayor, Wu described her journey to becoming mayor as “an unexpected full circle journey over the last decade.” She also said she plans to lead with inclusivity, drawing inspiration from City Hall’s accessibility renovations.

“City government is special. We are the level closest to the people, so we must do the big and the small. … Not only is it possible for Boston to deliver basic city services and generational change ​​— it is absolutely necessary in this moment,” Wu said. 

Wu said she needs the people of Boston to work together to enact change, and that the work needs to continue. 

“The reason to make a Boston for everyone is because we need everyone for Boston, right now. We have so much work to do, and it will take all of us to get it done,” Wu said. “So let’s get to work.”

Cassandra Pierre, a member of Wu’s transition team and an assistant professor at the Boston University School of Medicine, said that she was surprised to see how community-centered and emotionally powerful the swearing-in ceremony was.

“It definitely felt very different and very empowering to really feel like the community was part of this event,” Pierre said. “To see the students there, to see community activist presence, and really have an event that also felt like it belonged to the people of the city of Boston.”

Wu and other newly-elected City Council members will have a full inauguration in January 2022. When asked about the current speed of the transition, Pierre said that the people of Boston should be patient as the team hits the ground running.

“Having the co-chairs of the transition team and the advisors, including myself, fan out, engage people in the community will be one way to start making sure that we’re getting the foundations in place,” Pierre said. “Over the next few weeks, we know that even though there’s a smooth transfer of power that occurred [on Tuesday], here’s still key pieces that we need to put into place.”

Pierre said that the intersectional identities of herself and other transition advisors will open doors for community members who may not feel comfortable expressing their views. 

“The other thing that I think is important is to be a conduit of ideas. It’s also making sure that we are highlighting, uplifting people that should be part of this government,” Pierre said.

Dana Alas, one of Wu’s transition advisor and the organizing director of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, said that she is committed to helping Wu navigate the transition through the lens of a labor activist. Alas shares a similar vision with Pierre when it comes to ​​supporting students and families though the COVID-19 crisis.

“I think it’s important that [Wu] sought to have representation from the labor community, particularly in healthcare, given the COVID-19 crisis,” Alas said. “I feel like healthcare workers have been the backbone of our community for a very long time.”

Alas is looking forward to working with the other transition advisors to bridge the gap between the government and the people of Boston.

“In the coming weeks, we’re going to be helping her build a team that’s reflective of Boston and connect the work to City Hall and to make real progress towards addressing our pressing challenges,” Alas said. “I know what she’s looking for in the transition team members is for us to bring our own expertise and networks to help inform that process and help her connect neighborhoods and communities across the cities.”

Alas said that she is confident that Wu, her administration and transition advisers will work closely to propel Boston into greater heights.

“One of the things that she said in our first meeting last week was that we can do the big things by doing the little things right,” Alas said. “Being on the transition team gives us the opportunity to have a voice in that and that’s really special.”