When you work as a senior official for the city of Boston, you serve at the pleasure of the person who runs it: the mayor. That’s true no matter how long your tenure or how good you are at your job.
That political reality explains the somewhat awkward exit of Kairos Shen as chief planner for the Boston Redevelopment Authority. After 22 years with the BRA, Shen was fired because he chose to be. He wanted to take advantage of a clause in pension law that can double his pension if he is terminated for anything other than moral turpitude. The clause was eliminated under the administration of former Governor Deval Patrick, but employees such as Shen are grandfathered in, said a city official familiar with the situation. Since Shen, 50, was fired, as he demanded, he leaves with the possibility of immediately doubling his pension to $71,000 a year for life.
Meanwhile, there’s no question Mayor Martin J. Walsh wanted Shen to leave so that the mayor could appoint his own person to carry out his own vision for Boston.
Shen left a significant mark on the city, one that correlates chiefly with the tenure of Boston’s longest serving mayor, the late Thomas M. Menino. Now, it’s Walsh’s turn to choose someone who reflects his will. Walsh recently announced what he called a “sweeping blueprint for the city’s future” — a planning effort that goes by the name “Imagine Boston 2030.” Menino undertook a similar mission back in 1997. However, as the Globe’s Andrew Ryan reports, Menino’s effort, dubbed Boston 400, produced a draft document, but no final plan.
Walsh said he is committed to developing and implementing what would be the first citywide development plan in 50 years. As a first step, BRA director Brian P. Golden said he would begin a national search to identify candidates and an ultimate successor to Shen to serve as the BRA’s next director of planning.
Shen deserves acknowledgment for his service to the city. But Walsh also deserves the chance to put his own stamp on the city he now leads.