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Election will kick off musical chairs on council

Janey will return to presidency, St. Guillen seated for 2 months

Saraya Wintersmith, GBH News
Election will kick off musical chairs on council

When Boston’s new mayor is sworn in on Nov. 16, she will trigger a temporary political shuffle to hold spots until January, when the next crop of city councilors is sworn in.

Typically, the new mayor would also be sworn in the January following their election, but this year is different because Boston has an acting mayor. The city charter provides that a duly elected mayor can take the oath of office “as soon as conveniently may be after” receiving a certificate of election. Both mayoral candidates Annissa Essaibi George and Michelle Wu currently hold at-large council seats and would leave behind a vacancy if elected.

The city charter dictates such vacancies are filled by referring back to the previous at-large election results and asking the defeated candidates to serve, beginning with the fifth-place finisher. In this case, that’s none other than Alejandra St. Guillen — the candidate who, after a rare recount, lost to Councilor Julia Mejia by one vote.

“I’m definitely very open to it,” St. Guillen, 44, said of the temporary role. “The opportunity to serve together, at least, for me, would be great,” she said of the possibility of working alongside Mejia.

She said she is confirming the role would not raise issues with her appointment to the city’s cannabis board.

“I don’t want there to be any kind of appearance of conflicts of interest,” St. Guillen told GBH News.

But the answer is still pending on one “key question,” she said: What could she do in the four City Council meetings between November and January?

The council is scheduled to meet Nov. 17 — the day after the new mayor is scheduled to take the reins at City Hall — then three more times in December, according to the 2021 City Council schedule.

St. Guillen said she has already met with Council President Pro Tempore Matt O’ Malley, who will also get bumped from the council dais once acting Mayor Kim Janey relinquishes the mayor’s seat and returns to the council chamber.

Even though Janey serves as the acting mayor, she is still the city councilor for District 7 and the City Council president until the new council is sworn in at the beginning of the new year. A spokesperson for the acting mayor said on Monday that Janey will return to preside over the council’s December meetings “after some restorative time off” and that she “does not plan to bring new legislation forward this year.”

Janey and her council colleagues have had a strained relationship since she ascended to the acting mayoralty, a dynamic that O’Malley said has cooled.

“It’s less about personal individuals than it is about representative government,” the outgoing councilor said of the tension between the council and the acting mayor.

“At the end of the day, I think we’re all city officials who love this city and are very passionate,” he said, adding that “there is inherently tension between any executive and legislative branch.”

“We’re proud of her and what she did as acting mayor for the past couple of months,” O’Malley told GBH News.

Janey and Wu have acknowledged discussions regarding a possible post for Janey within the city administration if Wu, the frontrunner, wins Tuesday’s election.

And then there’s East Boston Councilor Lydia Edwards, who has declared a campaign for the state Senate seat being vacated by Joseph A. Boncore while running for re-election to the District 1 seat.

Edwards is running for re-election unchallenged and it is yet unclear how soon her council seat could be filled if she advances in the state Senate’s special election primary on Dec. 14 and wins the special general election in January.

Edwards said she has been approached by several people interested in running for the District 1 seat should she resign, but it’s a discussion she refuses to have until after Dec. 15.

That portion of the shuffle, should it come to pass, would happen after the new City Council comes to power on Jan. 3.

Saraya Wintersmith covers Boston City Hall for GBH News.