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Mayor Michelle Wu names former San Francisco environmental official Tiffany Chu as chief of staff

Michelle Wu's incoming chief of staff Tiffany Chu is a former commissioner of the San Francisco Department of the Environment and former CEO and co-founder of the transportation planning software platform Remix.HANDOUT

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced on Wednesday that Tiffany Chu will serve as her chief of staff, choosing an entrepreneur and former environmental official for the top role as she continues to assemble what may be the most racially diverse Cabinet in city history.

Chu — a former commissioner of the San Francisco Department of the Environment and former CEO and co-founder of the transportation planning software platform Remix — will transition into her role starting next month. Her responsibilities will range from day-to-day matters to long-term priorities.

“Tiffany brings a bold vision for what cities can do and how innovative teams can reshape what’s possible,” Wu said in a statement. “Her planning and team-building skills have already made impacts around the world.”

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Chu’s expertise in transportation, planning, and environmental issues reflects some of Wu’s top policy priorities — and her selection for the critical role makes clear how prominent a role those issues will play in the administration. A proud Orange Line commuter, Wu has advocated for fare-free transit in the region and pitched a Green New Deal for Boston.

The announcement comes as Wu continues to staff up her administration following a quicker than usual two-week transition period in November. She has already named a majority of her Cabinet, but a few priority positions remain vacant. And Wu has changed the Cabinet even as she fills it, adding, renaming, and elevating certain posts in moves that make clear her administration’s priorities.

Wu, for example, elevated Boston Public Health Commission Executive Director Dr. Bisola Ojikutu into a Cabinet-level role, a nod to the importance of that work as the city continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Wu has created several new Cabinet posts: a senior adviser for the city’s Green New Deal, and a chief of planning expected to play a central role in changing Boston’s development process. In November, she made Dr. Monica Bharel a Cabinet-level adviser leading Boston’s efforts to house and treat people and clear the streets at a homeless encampment known as “Mass. and Cass.”

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The city’s chief of economic development became its chief of economic opportunity and inclusion, a role now filled by Segun Idowu. Idowu told the Globe earlier this month that he and Wu decided together to change the name of the role to better reflect its goals.

Economic “development” makes people think of “skyscrapers and cranes,” not the hands-on work the city aims to do to engage with and boost individual small businesses, Idowu said.

“It was important to us that before people even meet me or anyone in our Cabinet, they know that they are a part of the work that we’re doing,” he said.

The administration now has a chief of “community engagement,” rather than “civic engagement”; Brianna Millor holds that title. Millor “is charged with bringing City Hall out of City Hall, and building community connections,” the city said in a news release when her position was announced.

Appointing a Cabinet that reflects Boston’s diversity has been a top priority for the administration, city officials said.

A first generation Taiwanese American, Chu has a degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture and Planning. She sat on San Francisco’s Downtown Congestion Pricing Policy Advisory Committee. She has also worked at Code for America, Y Combinator, Zipcar, and Continuum, and was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list.

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“I have long been inspired by Mayor Wu and the new energy and inclusiveness her administration represents,” Chu said in a statement. “I am so incredibly honored to return to a city that I love and can’t wait to get started and strengthen Boston’s legacy as one of the most welcoming and livable cities in the world.”

Chu succeeds Mary Lou Akai-Ferguson, who led Wu’s mayoral campaign and has since served as interim chief of staff.

Wu on Wednesday also named Brandon Cardet-Hernandez, a lifelong educator, to the Boston School Committee.



Emma Platoff can be reached at emma.platoff@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emmaplatoff.