A top official in Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration announced Thursday he is leaving city government for the Olympic organizing committee, putting a longtime confidant of the mayor at the center of Boston’s campaign to land the 2024 Summer Games.
Joseph Rull joined Walsh’s mayoral campaign when it was in its infancy and became the administration’s chief of operations when Walsh took office in January 2014. At Boston 2024, he will become chief administrative officer for the growing Olympic organization, a private entity developing the city’s bid for the Games.
Rull’s departure Friday from City Hall represents the highest-ranking loss for the administration. His exit also ends simmering questions about where he lives; Rull is raising his family in a suburb, but city law requires municipal employees to live in Boston.
“It’s a tremendous loss for me and the city,” said Walsh, who plans to replace Rull. “Joe is a fix-it guy, a person I depend on greatly, my go-to guy.”
As a former state representative, Walsh was a creature of Beacon Hill and entered the mayor’s office with a team largely unfamiliar with municipal government. Rull brought institutional knowledge: He had worked for Mayor Thomas M. Menino for six years and understood the workings of City Hall.
Rull served as the Walsh administration’s top problem solver and political enforcer, filling the role occupied in the previous administration by his former boss and mentor, Michael Kineavy. Walsh said he asked Rull to take the Olympics position because he wanted a trusted adviser in a key role at Boston 2024 to protect the city’s interests.
“Having Joe in that position is a tremendous opportunity for the City of Boston,” Walsh said in an interview Thursday.
Rull, who made $150,000 a year with the city, will earn $175,000 with the private, nonprofit Olympic organization, he said. He is expected to start work Monday at the Boston 2024 offices in the Seaport District.
John Fish, the chairman of Boston 2024, said Rull would help the “effort to welcome the world in 2024, advance the Olympic and Paralympic movements, and leave a social and economic legacy that makes our region an even more spectacular place to live, work, and play.”
On Thursday, as Rull spoke about his new role, cardboard boxes ready for packing sat in his office on City Hall’s fifth floor.
“Mayor Walsh is going to wear [the Olympics] whether it happens or not,” Rull said. “The residents of Boston need to make sure they are paid attention to.”
“I would ask the residents, ‘hear us out,’ ” Rull added. “Let us come out and talk about it.”
The US Olympic Committee in January chose Boston to represent the United States in a worldwide competition to host the 2024 Games. The International Olympic Committee will choose a winner in 2017.
A job with Boston 2024 had been discussed as a possibility in “very dreamy conversations,” Rull said, before a city was chosen for the US bid. Negotiations became serious after Boston was selected Jan. 8.
Walsh “asked me if I’d be open to considering it,” Rull said. “I told him, ‘Absolutely’; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Discussions went from there.”
His new job will include government relations, Rull said, and developing the plan for the Games and working with residents.
Before accepting the job, Rull sought advice from the state Ethics Commission, which advised him in a written opinion that he was “not prohibited by the [state] conflict of interest law from working for Boston 2024.” The commission noted, however, that Rull would face some restrictions related to his time in City Hall.
In Walsh’s first year in office, stories circulated about a power struggle between Rull and the chief of staff, Daniel Koh. Both men rejected the suggestion that there had been friction.
“I’m passionate about my job, and sometimes my passion can be perceived as anger,” Rull said. Koh “taught me things that I just didn’t know. He’s changed my view on certain aspects of government and the way things can work.”
In a separate interview, Koh said he and Rull became close friends. “Like brothers and like good honest colleagues, we had a number of arguments like any set of colleagues who respected each other,” Koh said. “At the end of the day, we felt like we had better outcomes as a result.”
Rull grew up in South Boston, but when he accepted a post in the Walsh administration he was living 25 miles south in Norwell, where he and his wife are raising three children. Last year, Walsh pushed to exempt top officials from the city’s residency requirement but abandoned the effort in the face of opposition. The mayor ultimately won a yearlong reprieve for top officials, but Rull’s exemption expired Jan. 6.
Rull told reporters in January he had gotten an apartment in Boston while his family remained in Norwell. He followed a long line of top officials who have kept their families in the suburbs while establishing residency in the city, including Brian P. Golden, the new director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority.
For the last month, Rull said, he slept four nights a week at a relative’s Dorchester apartment. After work, Rull said, he would drive to Norwell, have dinner with his children, and then drive to the city to sleep. Rull was not paying rent, he said. “It was a family thing, but I did have a lease,” Rull said.
The residency requirement did not cause him to leave city government, Rull said.
“The offer that I got is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Rull said. “Hypothetically, if my wife and children all lived in South Boston or Dorchester with me and this opportunity came, I would probably jump at it.”
Andrew Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.