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Boston mayor Kim Janey. Photo: David L. Ryan/Getty Images
Boston Mayor Kim Janey. Photo: David L. Ryan/Getty Images

Kim Janey is the first woman and person of color to be Boston’s Mayor

The former City Council President is taking the place of former Mayor Marty Walsh, who is joining the Biden administration as U.S. Labor Secretary.

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On the evening of Monday, March 22, Kim Janey shattered two historic barriers when she became acting mayor of Boston. She is both the first woman and the first person of color to lead the city. 

Janey, a Black woman, moved up in the ranks from city council president to acting mayor immediately after the former mayor Marty Walsh resigned to join President Joe Biden’s cabinet as Labor Secretary. 

Amanda Hunter, executive director of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, which advocates for women in politics, pointed out the significance of inaugurating a woman of color to the mayoral position. 

Despite Boston becoming increasingly more diverse, Janey’s inauguration is still very meaningful. 

“We have exclusively had white, male mayors leading this city for nearly 200 years,” Hunter said. 

Deanna Cook met Janey in 2017, when she was having a problem at her high school. 

Cook and her sister continued being sent to detention for wearing hair extensions, a popular look among Black girls. The hairstyle violated a dress code put in place by predominantly white administrators. 

Cook recalled feeling very frustrated because her and her sister had no one representing them and no one around to vouch for their innocence. 

“We had such difficulty getting the policy turned over, mainly because the people who were in charge didn’t understand and also didn’t care,” Cook said. 

During this time, Janey was employed at the nonprofit Massachusetts Advocates for Children. In that role, she argued that the ban on hair extensions was discriminatory and assisted the Cook sisters in changing the dress code at their school, Mystic Valley Regional Charter School. 

Cook expressed excitement at seeing a Black woman, especially Janey, be able to represent her city as mayor. Cook is now a sophomore at UMass Amherst, and claims that the city of Boston has been suffering from the same lack of diversity in leadership that existed at Mystic Valley Regional. 

Janey, the 55-year-old Roxbury native and former education advocate, officially stepped into her new role as mayor at 9:01 p.m. Monday night, exactly one minute after former mayor Marty Walsh submitted his letter of resignation. 

As acting mayor, Janey can only perform duties that are not urgent or “not admitting of delay,” as the charter spells out. But she can still pass or veto ordinances approved by City Council and can execute other tasks like handling city contracts and grants and dealing with payroll. 

Walsh is now heading to Washington D.C to serve as U.S Labor Secretary, even as Boston continues facing pandemic-related challenges. On Monday, he maintained that his and Janey’s team have worked closely to ensure a very smooth transition. 

“We’ve held extensive planning sessions,” Walsh said. “Every department has been engaged in this process and is taking proactive steps to ensure the continuity of services and operations in the city of Boston.”

Walsh also spoke of his strong confidence in the city government and its plans to focus on public safety and implement the long-term capital improvements recently launched across several different neighborhoods . 

In a tweet, Janey congratulated Walsh for his Senate confirmation, describing him as a “proud son of Dorchester who will bring our city with [him] to the [Department of Labor].” 

“The working people of America will benefit greatly from your passion,” she continued. “Now, we look ahead to a new day — a new chapter — in Boston’s history.”

As Walsh reminisced about his own journey as mayor of their beloved city, Walsh offered his own encouraging words to Janey.

“I was texting with Council President Janey last night. I texted: ‘Think about this for a minute: a little girl from Roxbury is about to become mayor of Boston,’” Walsh said. 

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