Bill Linehan appears headed to presidency of Boston City Council

Councilor Bill Linehan — who has represented South Boston, Chinatown, and the South End since 2007 — appears to have secured the presidency of the Boston City Council, according to an official with close knowledge of the votes.

Linehan, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment Monday, would succeed Stephen J. Murphy, who held the position for three terms, the maximum.

The council will vote on a new president Jan. 6, after newly elected councilors are sworn in. Councilors vying for the position typically line up the seven votes they need to secure a majority of the 12-member body well ahead of time.


Since the November elections, Linehan and at least two other councilors had been wooing their colleagues to lock down votes for the council presidency, a position that comes with more power, a larger budget, and duties that include serving as mayor if the job becomes vacant or if the mayor is unable to serve.

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Councilor Matt O’Malley of West Roxbury was also competing for the job, as was Councilor Tito Jackson of Roxbury, said the official who spoke to the Globe. The councilors are good friends and close colleagues who had each pledged not to compete with the other if one was able to garner commitments for at least six votes.

Early Monday, O’Malley appeared to be coasting to a seventh vote and the presidency, after lining up six vote commitments, said the official. Michelle Wu, a newly elected councilor at large, was a holdout, but O’Malley had felt he could sway her.

Things changed by Monday after one of his pledges had a change of heart, two officials said. Timothy P. McCarthy — who was newly elected to represent Hyde Park, Roslindale, and Mattapan in District 5 — had promised to support O’Malley as early as Sunday, but then changed his mind.

Reached by phone Monday, McCarthy declined to discuss whether he had previously committed to vote for O’Malley or whether he had changed his mind, saying he would not “get into a private conversation.”


He said that he had been approached by both Jackson and O’Malley, but in the end decided to give his vote to Linehan, a longtime ally.

“I know his daughters,’’ he said. “I know his family. He’s a solid guy. He’s done so much for the kids in this city. I know he’s interested in moving the city forward, and I’m interested in seeing him doing that.”

McCarthy added that his vote was not against O’Malley or Jackson, but for Linehan. “As a freshman councilor, it was a tough decision,’’ he said.

Wu eventually decided to vote for Linehan as well.

Linehan, who grew up in South Boston, was reelected last month after a fierce contest with Suzanne Lee, who nearly defeated him in 2011. During the most recent election, four members on the council endorsed Lee.


Well known in South Boston, Linehan has come under fire after a number of controversial statements, including a recent assertion that the host of the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast should remain an elected official from South Boston. The event has long been hosted by the state senator from the First Suffolk District, which for decades was a candidate from South Boston. But a black woman from Dorchester, Linda Dorcena Forry, won the seat earlier this year.

After an avalanche of political pressure, Linehan backed down.

Andrew Ryan of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@