Well, there you have it folks. Mayor Marty Walsh’s first week.
All in all, I’d say it was a pretty good one for the new guy, despite a couple of bumps. It has been fascinating to see his administration taking shape, with its mix of old hands and whoa-who-the-heck-is-that new faces. We’re starting to see who Mayor Walsh is and wants to be. Here are a few things we’ve learned so far.
He really means it on diversity. His first big appointment, of Daniel Arrigg Koh as chief of staff, sent a clear message. Koh is crazy-young, at 29, and a person of color. He comes from a different universe from Walsh — techy, and not super political. Other hires — campaign brain Joyce Linehan as policy chief, William Gross as the city’s first black superintendent-in-chief, former mayoral-rival-turned-supporter Felix Arroyo to head health and human services, Winifred Cotter as the first woman head of a mayoral police detail — make it look like a truly new day.
He’s loyal, maybe to a fault. As his selection of buddy and fellow former-legislator Gene O’Flaherty as his administration’s top lawyer should make clear, Walsh can do it the old way, too. I share my colleague Larry Harmon’s misgivings on O’Flaherty. He can be a hothead, and in the State House, he held up some sorely needed criminal justice legislation. Cotter is Walsh’s first cousin. Arroyo’s appointment looks a lot like a reward for his endorsement. Walsh has been vehement that all three picks are fully qualified. We’ll see.
. . . and he doesn’t care if that makes for bad optics. Walsh has been around long enough to know he was going to take hits for the appointments of Arroyo, O’Flaherty, and Cotter. Clearly, he doesn’t mind. That’s confidence.
He won’t be rushed. In making key appointments, he has said, better to do it right than fast. That’s sensible. So far, he’s sounding a collaborative note. The giant advisory teams and town meetings that marked his transition were stacked with very smart people rich in experiences and ideas vital to building a new Boston. He says he will continue that approach in City Hall.
His operation has some kinks to work out. Walsh’s administration couldn’t keep the secret of William Evans’s appointment as police commissioner. And when the news broke two days before Walsh intended, panic ensued. A press release recycled a quote from Mayor Tom Menino, from when Evans was appointed interim commissioner, this time attributing it to Walsh. Yikes.
He doesn’t want a revolution.Or at least not yet. There has been no brooming at City Hall. As the Globe’s Andrew Ryan reported, Walsh has kept on 31 of Menino’s Cabinet chiefs and department heads — of them 10 temporary appointments, 21 permanent. His big political move of the week was asking the state gaming commission for more time to consider his options when it comes to the casino once proposed at Suffolk Downs, and now, after Eastie voted no, moved just over the city line into Revere. Casino opponents (and I) would like a bolder approach — say, something like, “My people have spoken, this happens over my dead body.” But that’s not the Walsh way. The commission batted down his modest proposal in short order.
He is comfortable in his skin. As Walsh’s first address showed on Monday, an orator he’s not. But the speech was lovely nonetheless: acknowledging the unlikeliness of his ascent (there can’t be many mayors around who are recovering alcoholics and victims of gun violence); rattling off the list of communities that make up the City on a Hill; promising to listen to new voices. It was very him. He was, by turns, jokey and direct. “They can take their time, I’m not going to tell them what to do,” he said at the inauguration, as he waited for city councilors to take their seats.
The mayor we saw over the past week is plainly not an insecure guy. That means he’ll be fun to watch.