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Walsh Aims to Make Picks For Staff Before Holidays

Heights Staff

Published: Thursday, December 12, 2013

Updated: Thursday, December 12, 2013 01:12

Although Mayor Elect Martin J. Walsh has yet to make any decisions about who he will appoint to his mayoral staff, he announced last week that he will make his selections before Christmas.

Walsh has assembled 11 policy teams comprised of over 250 people, who are collectively responsible for examining the current state of affairs in Boston and determining where there needs to be change. Walsh’s pace has been criticized because of an impending Jan. 6 inauguration date.

He has yet to determine how he will structure the office and has not started formal interviews with the candidates for positions in his cabinet. When Menino took office in 1993, he had been acting mayor for four months and therefore had a team in place before his election. Within a month of his election, Menino had fired and replaced eight city department heads. In New York, Bill de Blasio has already named his top deputy and police commissioner, while Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles named his chief of staff four weeks after the election day.

Walsh, however, is reluctant to agree that his selection process is taking too long, explaining that he does not want to rush what is a very important series of choices.

“These are big decisions,” Walsh said, according to The Boston Globe. “When I ran my campaign, I wasn’t focused on who my chief of staff was going to be. I want to make sure I get it right. That’s more important than the quickness of it.”
Over 1,100 candidates have submitted resumes, and the transition team Walsh has assembled is now faced with the task of determining how to appropriately evaluate the large sum of possible members of the cabinet.

Jeffrey M. Berry, a political science professor at Tufts University, said that some choices are not as immediately consequential as others, but that there are several choices that need to be made soon. “The chief of staff is critical because he is going to help create the organizational structure that Walsh will use to govern,” Berry said. “It’s the person that can pick up the phone and call anybody else in the administration as say, ‘The Mayor wants this done.’”
With an impending April 9 deadline for a new budget, Walsh also has a great deal of pressure to determine who his chief financial officer will be. The position is currently held by Meredith Weenick, who has not indicated whether she will stay. Furthermore, with the winter season upon the city, there is mounting pressure for Walsh to determine who the Public Works Commissioner (PWC) will be, especially considering the fact that the current PWC, Joanne Massaro, is leaving, and the PWC is integral in forming a solid emergency plan for Boston to deal with winter weather.

During his campaign, Walsh promised to establish  a cabinet-level commissioner for the arts and culture in Boston and allocated a set percentage of city revenue to the arts. He hired Joyce Linehan, arts publicist and record label executive, as one of nine co-chairs of his transitional team. Together, the two hope to bring to reality the vision of a more prevalent arts community in Boston. “The first thing I think it means is a real commitment to the arts in Boston,” Walsh said, according to The Boston Globe. “From the local artists in the neighborhood, to the Museum of Fine Arts and the bigger institutions and somewhere in between, one group of people who have felt they’ve been left kind of out there, in the lurch, is the arts community. We’ve got a lot of great talented people in the city of Boston.”
Walsh is not sure yet how much revenue will be dedicated to the arts in the new budget, or where it will come from. Furthermore, he is unsure of who he will name as commissioner but predicts he will have a name in January.

Although the superintendent of the Boston school system is not in the Mayor’s administration and is not chosen by the Mayor directly, the transition from the interim superintendent, John McDonough, to a permanent one is another serious personnel choice facing Walsh. The person to replace Carol Johnson, who retired in August, is not chosen by the mayor, but Walsh does have the power to appoint school committee members, and therefore he carries a certain amount of influence on the decision.

Walsh has met several times with the school committee since being elected but has yet to settle on a person for superintendent of Boston. Walsh has said he would look outside the school system for a successor, including the possibility of his former rival candidate, City Councilor John Connolly. Connolly, however, has said he would deny such an offer.

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