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As Michelle Wu stares down a slew of daunting tasks, time is a factor

Previous elected mayors had two months to gear up to serve. Michelle Wu has fewer than two weeks

On her first day as mayor-elect, Michelle Wu met with Acting Mayor Kim Janey. Wu will have just two weeks before taking over the job leading Massachusetts’ capital city.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

A day after her decisive victory in the Boston mayor’s race, Michelle Wu had little time to savor her groundbreaking accomplishment, with a compressed transition period forcing a rapid shift from an idealistic campaign to assembling a new administration.

Elected mayors normally have two months before assuming office. But Wu will have fewer than two weeks before she is sworn in on Nov. 16, and faces a daunting array of tasks as she assembles a leadership team and prioritizes her agenda.

Winning nearly 64 percent of the vote, Wu became the first woman and the first person of color elected mayor of Boston. After grabbing a croissant and latte at The Underground Cafe in Roxbury, the 36-year-old Democrat said her focus is on a successful transition.


“The top priority is building out our team,” Wu said. “This is about empowering a full team that is reflective of Boston, representative of the expertise in our communities, and connected to the urgency of the issues from the Cabinet level all throughout the organization.”

Wu’s truncated transition comes in an unusual year in city elections that began when former mayor Martin J. Walsh left in March to become labor secretary. City officials said timing for the mayoral transition is dictated by statute, which establishes that a new mayor be sworn in after election results are certified.

At noon, Wu joined her fellow city councilors at her final meeting in that role, down the hall from the mayor’s office on the fifth floor of City Hall.

By mid-afternoon, Wu huddled with Acting Mayor Kim Janey for an hour to go over transition priorities, and she wrapped up her day by attending a 5:30 p.m. virtual meeting of the Boston School Committee.

Speaking with reporters in Roxbury, Wu said she has yet to name a chief of staff, adding that she would identify key members of her team “in the days ahead.”


Among her priorities, Wu said, is ensuring “a continuous ability to make sure residents are getting all the city services that are needed and that we have civility and a growing sense of what’s possible in city government.”

At City Hall, Wu entered a silent and seated council chamber 15 minutes late, while her rival for mayor, Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, was already at her seat, a corsage of two light pink roses in plastic next to her microphone.

The two women, Wu in her trademark navy blue and Essaibi George in a carnation-pink blazer, did not make eye contact as the meeting got underway.

The councilors each rose to applaud the victor in the mayoral election — all except Essaibi George, who clapped from her seat. In her own speech to the council, Essaibi George focused on concerns around homelessness.

Essaibi George had congratulated Wu during an election night concession speech Tuesday. She also called on supporters to join her in that mission, “painting the city pink” — a reference to her campaign’s signature color — by serving their neighbors.

The other councilors, effusive in their praise for Wu, addressed their hopes for greater collaboration between the mayor and the council once Wu is in office. “The bridge across the fifth floor doesn’t have to be so long,” said Councilor Kenzie Bok.

Councilor Michael Flaherty, who was reelected Tuesday, said he hopes Wu’s collaborative spirit will continue down the hall.


Councilor Andrea Campbell, who competed in the preliminary election, also heaped praise on Wu, but noted that the celebration has taken on a somber tone.

“This is amazing‚” Campbell said. “This is not a funeral.”

“We all recognize that its hard work governing and we can’t do it by ourselves,” Campbell continued. “It has to be of course collaborative in nature,” particularly when it comes to challenges such as COVID and the opioid crisis at the area known as Mass. and Cass.

Wu thanked the councilors, assured her colleagues that “we’re going to be on the same text chain,” and said she admired Essaibi George’s example as “a mom, who’s going to get it done, no matter how many things are on the plate.”

“You’re there. And you’ve showed up for Boston time and again,” Wu said of Essaibi George. “And so I want to thank you for the love of Boston that radiates out from everything that you do.”

Councilor Matt O’Malley said he was “immensely proud” to see Wu in the council chamber after her election victory. Both began serving on the council eight years ago and both had former mayor Thomas M. Menino as their political mentor, O’Malley said.

Menino, a former councilor and acting mayor who served as mayor for 20 years after being elected in 1993, earned a reputation as an “urban mechanic,” focused on the nuts and bolts of governance.

“You’re going to see some of that urban mechanic approach that Menino took in a Mayor Wu administration and in Mayor Wu’s policies,” O’Malley said.


Indeed, among the more mundane matters facing the incoming mayor is getting the snowplows ready in the event of an early snowstorm. Bigger items include filling key positions, particularly that of police commissioner, as well as preparing for the possibility of a resurgence of COVID positivity cases during the holiday seasons.

O’Malley said he doesn’t anticipate that Wu will have every position filled by the time she’s in office in under two weeks, adding that there will be some overlap.

“There’s no question that it’s a daunting task,” he said. “Michelle is more than up for it. She will be tremendous.”

Tonya Alanez and Emma Platoff of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Meghan E. Irons can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.