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Wu is sworn in

Avery Bleichfeld
Wu is sworn in
Joined by her husband, Conor Pewarski, and children Blaise, 6, and Cass, 4, Michelle Wu is sworn in as Boston's first elected woman and Asian mayor by Judge Myong J. Joun in the Boston City Council Chambers on Tuesday. PHOTO: Angela Rowlings

To a packed city council chamber and crowds scattered throughout City Hall, Michelle Wu was sworn in as Boston’s first elected female mayor and first elected mayor of color Tuesday afternoon.

The event, which took place two weeks following the election in a shortened transition period, marked the end of City Council President Kim Janey’s time as acting mayor following former Mayor Marty Walsh’s departure to serve as labor secretary in Washington.

During her remarks following the oath of office, Wu emphasized the work Boston’s city government, now under her leadership, does.

“City government is special,” Wu said. “We are the level closest to the people, so we must do the big and the small. Every streetlight, every pothole, every park, every classroom lays the foundation for greater change.”

Janey, who was the first woman and first person of color to lead the city when she took up the mantle of acting mayor in March, described her eight months in office and Wu’s election as the dawning of a new day.

“When a little Black girl from Roxbury, who grew up seeing the worst of our city can grow up to be Boston’s first woman mayor and first mayor of color, it was a new day indeed,” Janey said. “For many in Boston, we were now able to see what is possible, that Boston could truly be a city for everyone, even those who had been marginalized. It was transformative.”

In a gathering with press following the ceremony, in which Wu answered questions in both English and Spanish, Wu said she felt honored, as the daughter of immigrants, to be sworn in as mayor of Boston.

“As the daughter of immigrants, it’s a moment that I never imagined as a child,” Wu said in Spanish. “So, the work is to create the collaboration with all the communities and open the doors of the government and of opportunity.”

Wu told press that she planned to have meetings with Mayor’s Office staff Tuesday afternoon. She also said that from now until the end of the year she will be continuing to fill positions across the city while also getting started on the larger issues that made up most of the conversation during the campaign, such as the crises at Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard or working on housing and development across the city. Wu has emphasized the importance of filling those positions in her administration with diverse selection of voices.

Regarding her plans surrounding the situation at so-called Mass. and Cass, Wu said she and her team is focused on working to create more housing options to address the issue.

“Every person that I have spoken to related to the crises at Mass. Ave. and Melnea Cass Boulevard — whether it is advocates on the ground, patients seeking treatment, public health frontline workers, law enforcement — it is clear across the board that the number one need right now is stable, supportive, low-threshold housing,” Wu said to press.

In recent weeks, Wu announced plans to appoint Monica Bharel, who served for six years as the commissioner for the state’s Department of Public Health, to a cabinet-level senior advisor position in charge of tackling the crises at Mass. and Cass. She also announced plans to elevate Bisola Ojikutu, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, to chief of Health and Human services for the city.

Wu also said she anticipates changes to Janey’s executive order banning tents and temporary shelters in Boston in response to a lawsuit from the ACLU.

In terms of finding a new police commissioner, Wu said she planned to assemble a group to seek community input before vetting and sourcing candidates for the role. She said she expects that will kick of in the weeks to come.

When asked about what bold action Bostonians could expect to see first from a candidate who often focused on big goals such as fare-free transit, reinstating rent control in Boston or implementing a Boston Green New Deal, Wu turned the focus instead to smaller functions in the mayor’s role.

“The beauty of city government is that we do the big and the small and we are pushing for big changes … but the small matters too,” Wu said. “I took the green line today to City Hall today with my family for the ceremony, and we are going to ensure that every bit of this administration, every leader in positions across the city thinks about how our interactions with residents in the day-to-day and in the big picture really line up with continuing to bring people into the work of government.”

Throughout the event, Wu focused on bringing more people into the work of city government and bringing City Hall to communities across Boston.

“We need everyone to join us in the work of doing the big and the small, getting City Hall out of City Hall and into our neighborhoods and embracing the possibility of this city,” Wu said. “The reason to make a Boston for everyone is because we need everyone for Boston right now. We have so much work to do, and it will take all of us to get it done.”

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