Wu sees imperative for basic services, generational change

Political News
Michelle Wu

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu swears her oath of office in the City Council Chamber. (SHNS)

BOSTON, Mass. (State House News Service)–Boston Mayor Michelle Wu took her oath of office Tuesday as the third person to lead the city this year, pledging to focus on both the big and the small.

“Every streetlight, every pothole, every park, every classroom lays the foundation for greater change,” the 36-year-old Roslindale resident said after she was sworn in over a Bible held by her husband, Conor Pewarski, and sons, Blaise and Cass. “Not only is it possible for Boston to deliver basic city services and generational change, it is absolutely necessary in this moment,” she said. “We’ll tackle our biggest challenges by getting the small things right, by getting city hall out of City Hall, into our neighborhoods, block by block, street by street.”

The first woman and first person of color elected as mayor of Boston, Wu was previously a city councilor and ran a mayoral campaign that included calls for fare-free MBTA service and for abolishing the Boston Planning and Development Association and replacing it with a new city planning department. While attending Harvard Law School, Wu interned with Mayor Tom Menino and his chief of staff.

Boston Municipal Court Judge Myong Joun administered the oath of office in a ceremony attended by Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Gov. Charlie Baker and several state legislators, including members of the city’s delegation and those from other communities who had endorsed Wu.

“A new day is dawning,” Brookline Rep. Tommy Vitolo tweeted from the event.

It took place in the City Council Chamber, where Wu said she “learned the ropes of city government and politics.” A former City Council president, Wu said she “held the gavel on this floor, nursed babies on this floor, delivered paid parental leave on this floor … language access, food justice, housing protections, climate progress, and have reveled in the growing representation and power of our communities that our Boston City Council continues to embody.”

Much of Wu’s speech focused on City Hall, a Brutalist building she says she calls “beautiful,” though its concrete architecture has at times been a subject of scorn. “I’ve earned the mandate to call this a beautiful building,” Wu said.

Wu said she “felt invisible” the first time she entered the building, “intimidated by the checkpoints and looming government counters” that reminded her why her immigrant family “tried to stay away from places like this.” She said the floor in the council chamber used to be down three steps in a pit, presenting a barrier for people with mobility challenges and wheelchair users.

“When we make City Hall more accessible, we are all raised up,” she said. “When we communicate in many languages, we all understand more, and most of all, when we connect the power of city government to the force of our neighborhoods and communities, we see how much is possible for our city.”

Wednesday marks the second time this year that Boston has welcomed a new mayor, both women of color. Wu takes the reins from Kim Janey, who became acting mayor in March after former Mayor Marty Walsh was confirmed as U.S. labor secretary. Janey also ran for mayor this year, coming in fourth in a September preliminary election.

Wu topped the ticket in the preliminary, then went on to beat fellow City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George with 64 percent of the vote in the Nov. 2 municipal election.

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

The ceremony, featuring a roughly eight-and-a-half minute speech from Wu, wrapped up in about a half hour, a timeframe that City Council President Pro Tempore Matt O’Malley said offered “an indication of the efficient government that Mayor Wu will run.”

According to the mayor’s office, Wu was sworn in on the Aitken Bible, published by Robert Aitken in 1782 as the earliest complete English-language Bible printed in America. It is part of the Boston Public Library’s collections and often referred to as the “Bible of the Revolution.”

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