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Mayor Walsh names Kathryn Burton his new chief of staff

Burton, operations director for a Boston development firm, will be the first indigenous person to hold a cabinet-level City Hall post

Kathryn R. Burton.handout (custom credit)/Handout

An executive from a Boston development firm will be Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s next chief of staff, marking the first time an indigenous person will hold a cabinet-level City Hall post, Walsh’s office announced Tuesday.

Kathryn R. Burton will assume chief of staff duties starting March 9. She succeeds Dave Sweeney, who worked in that role for two-and-a-half years before accepting a job as president and chief executive of MASCO, the Medical, Academic, and Scientific Community Organization that manages operations for the institutions that make up Boston’s 210-acre Longwood medical and academic campus.

In Tuesday’s announcement, Walsh’s office said Burton will “focus on accelerating the implementation of the mayor’s priorities, ensuring the effectiveness of city services, and supporting over 18,000 employees in doing their jobs at the City of Boston.”


“From her wide ranging background across sectors, it is clear that she is someone who is smart and driven, and who has a keen sensibility of the opportunities and challenges we face as a city,” said Walsh in a statement. “Her commitment to common sense solutions will be a valuable asset as we work together to carry out our wide-ranging and progressive agenda of bold initiatives to move Boston forward.”

Burton arrives at a critical time for the Walsh administration, which the mayor has described as being in the “implementation stage” of his policy visions, halfway through his second term, and as city councilors and community advocates have pushed the mayor to go harder to the left on issues such as transportation and housing.

The administration has been embroiled in recent controversies, as well, including a recent bribery scandal.

Burton, a 43-year-old who lives with her husband and two boys in the North End, has worked as director of operations for New Boston Ventures for the last four years and previously worked as chief of staff for then-state treasurer Steven Grossman, according to Walsh’s office.


During her time at the Treasury, that agency had a $9.6 million operating budget, managed the state’s deposits, issued about $3 billion in bonds annually, and oversaw the state lottery and state pension funds, the mayor’s office said.

Burton will be the first indigenous person to hold a cabinet-level position at City Hall, officials said; she is a member of the the Gesgapegiag Mi’kmaq tribe in Quebec. She grew up on the Eskasoni First Nations reserve in Nova Scotia.

In a statement, Burton said she was honored and humbled by the appointment.

“I look forward to helping Mayor Walsh achieve his ambitious goals for the city and being part of the team that is leading the charge in making Boston a better place for all," she said.

Burton, who holds degrees from the University of King’s College in Nova Scotia, and Dartmouth College, has also previously served as a senior official at the Barbara Lee Family Foundation and the Barbara Lee Political Office, which Walsh’s office described as a “a leading force in supporting and electing women in politics.”

She currently serves on the Boston Children’s Museum’s board of overseers and the Beacon Hill Nursery School board of directors, officials said. As a past vice-chair of Rose F. Kennedy Greenway Conservancyboard of directors, Burton helped negotiate a 2017 funding agreement that shored up state support and brought new funding from the city and nearby property owners, according to Walsh’s office.


Milton J. Valencia of Globe staff contributed to this report.

Danny McDonald can be reached at Follow him @Danny__McDonald.