fb-pixel Skip to main content

Wu defends stance on council president

City Councilor-elect Michelle Wu and her fellow councilors will vote Jan. 6 on who will be president.Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/Wendy Maeda

Responding to a whirl of criticism, Boston City Councilor-elect Michelle Wu on Wednesday defended her decision to support Bill Linehan for the council presidency.

Wu said that after detailed talks with all of the councilors, she decided that Linehan, the district councilor from South Boston, has the experience and ideas to best lead the council.

Her pick of Linehan over a younger, more liberal contender, Matt O'Malley of West Roxbury, stunned some supporters.

Wu said she has been hearing from supporters who feel betrayed by her decision.

"I do say to them that this does not change who I am, what I've been talking about, and what I campaigned for and why I campaigned,'' she said in a phone interview. "I put my name out there and ran for public service because I want more inclusion, diversity, and opportunity. . . . I will fight for those values."


Linehan, O'Malley, and Tito Jackson of Roxbury had been vying for the presidency, which comes with a bigger budget and duties that include serving as mayor if the mayor becomes unable. Councilor Charles Yancey of Mattapan also said he had been seeking support.

Councilors will vote Jan. 6 during their swearing in.

O'Malley began the week believing he had six votes — including his own — from current councilors Jackson, Ayanna Pressley, Frank Baker, and newly elected councilors Josh Zakim and Timothy McCarthy.

O'Malley hoped to sway Wu.

But Monday, his plan fell apart after McCarthy and Wu decided to back Linehan.

Linehan confirmed that he has the seven votes needed to secure the presidency but said that could still change. He said he will continue working to line up support from his colleagues.

Jackson may also be back in the running, according to an official with close knowledge of the process.


Linehan, who has represented South Boston, Chinatown, and the South End since 2007, is considered by some to represent an old guard of Boston politics in a culturally changing city. But his supporters have countered that the criticism is unfair and based solely on the fact that he is an older Irish-American from South Boston.

Wu said Linehan is her district councilor, and the two share mutual friends but are not close acquaintances.

Wu said that she does not agree with every position Linehan has taken and has spoken her mind to him about issues they disagree on — something she said she will continue to do.

“Over the last year, there has been a lot of talk about a ‘New Boston’ and an ‘Old Boston,’ but I reject the notion that Boston is a city hopelessly divided by neighborhood, income level or political outlook,’’ Wu wrote in a statement.

Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com.