After two decades of government work, Jerome Smith is making the leap to the private sector. Smith, one of Martin J. Walsh’s top aides, is leaving City Hall on Friday to join Amazon as a senior manager of external affairs.
Smith, Walsh’s chief of civic engagement, will start at Amazon on Dec. 14. He said this is a new job for the Seattle-based retail giant, a position that is being rolled out in eight cities across the country including Boston.
“They view this as an important city [with] 2,000 jobs in the Seaport,” Smith said. “As they make decisions here in Boston, they’re making sure they’re being cognizant of local thoughts and local trends.”
Smith said he didn’t get the job through networking or political connections. Instead, he simply responded to a link to an online posting that a friend had forwarded to him.
“Amazon was looking for someone to do this external affairs work, to be hyper-local,” Smith said. “They wanted someone who had a relationship with the community, and understands how the community works. I thought about it for a little while. It’s similar to what I’m doing now.”
Smith will act as a public face for Amazon in Boston, meeting with residents, local officials, and neighborhood groups.
“I have an understanding of this town,” Smith said. “I have a lot of relationships in this town. I’m excited to use that skill in this new role.”
Smith will work from his Savin Hill home for now, and presumably for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Amazon has offices in Fort Point, with plans to open a new building that’s going up nearby in the Seaport in 2021; Smith said he’s not sure exactly where he’ll eventually work, except that it will be somewhere in the city.
Smith joined the Walsh administration in its early months, in 2014, as director of neighborhood services. His resumé at that point included stints as an aide with then-Mayor Thomas M. Menino, and as chief of staff for former city councilor Mike Ross and then chief of staff for former Senate president Therese Murray.
Walsh made chief of civic engagement a cabinet-level role in September 2014, promoting Smith to that job. Walsh announced on Monday that Aisha Miller, an assistant commissioner with the Inspectional Services Department, would take over for Smith next week.
Smith said he enjoyed providing a voice for everyday citizens in Walsh’s cabinet.
“I’m going to miss the adrenaline rush of every day there being a new issue to solve,” Smith said. “I’m really going to miss being in the thick of it.”
Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.