Reporter's Notebook: In restructuring, Walsh looks for ‘nimble’ cabinet

Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Jan. 29, 2014

In a bid to streamline city services, Mayor Marty Walsh is revamping the cabinet structure, creating a position focused on arts and culture while splitting apart some departments and melding others together.

Daniel Arrigg Koh, Walsh’s chief of staff, said the administration is looking for the cabinet to function as a “nimble, efficient group of people.” “We’re doing this for better flow of information, for better coordination,” he said.

There will be 12 cabinet members, along with the heads of the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Boston Housing Authority, down from the 20 or so that existed under Mayor Thomas Menino towards the end of his tenure. Walsh met with staffers last week to discuss the proposed changes, and plans were rolled out this week. The changes do not need the approval of the City Council.

The administration will bring in an arts and culture chief, as Walsh promised on the campaign trail. A nationwide search is expected. The chief will have the Boston Public Library, the Arts Commission, and the Boston Cultural Council under his or her purview. The move splits apart the job of arts, tourism and special events director. Tourism and special events will be moved under an economic development chief, another new position. The economic development chief will be a separate position from the head of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the city’s planning and development agency.

The rest of the cabinet will include the school superintendent; a chief of environment, energy and open space; a chief of finance and budget; a chief of health and human services that will have the Boston Public Health Commission under his aegis; a chief of housing; a chief of information and technology; a chief of operations and administration; the joint chiefs of public safety, including the police, fire and emergency management department heads; and a chief of streets, transportation and sanitation, which will include the Public Works Department, parking, and bikes.

Within the mayor’s office there will be the chief of operations, a chief of policy, corporation counsel, chief communications officer, and chief of staff.

Walsh has already named a number of people to the positions: Joyce Linehan, a top campaign aide and local activist, will serve as chief of policy, while Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty, a Chelsea lawmaker who entered the House around the same time as Walsh, will step down from his seat to take the corporation counsel job.

Lisa Pollack, the director of media and public relations at the Department of Neighborhood Development, is moving up to chief communications officer. Pollack started as a staff photographer under Menino. She joined the Denterlien communications firm in 2004, later returning to City Hall to work for the neighborhood development department. She lives in West Roxbury with her husband, Lou Mansdorf, and their daughter.

Earlier this year, former City Councillor At-Large Felix Arroyo was tapped as health and human services chief, a new position that includes a wide array of departments. Joe Rull, Walsh’s campaign field director and a former City Hall staffer under Menino, was announced as chief of operations, and his scope will include neighborhood services, intergovernmental relations, human resources, labor relations, and property and construction management, among others.

A number of officials from the Menino administration are remaining on board, like budget chief Meredith Weenick and housing and neighborhood development chief Sheila Dillon.

Walsh administration officials said there is a potential for cost savings through the reorganization as the changes are internally rolled out.

Walsh planning trip to Ireland in the spring
Mayor Walsh, who boasts roots in Co. Galway, always keeps an eye on the ould sod, but this spring, as he rounds out his first few months in office, he plans to check things out personally.

“I haven’t even focused on it yet,” Walsh told the Reporter this week, still settling into his new job. “I do want to go, though, probably in May.” He added that he wouldn’t be making any other stops while over there.

The mayoral trip across the Atlantic was first floated as a rumor in Irish America magazine, which celebrates the rise of the Dorchester native with a 3,000-word cover story in its February/March edition. Walsh, who served as a state representative from Dorchester for 16 years before running for mayor, has made many previous trips to Ireland.

Irish America noted that after his victory, the mayor spoke to the Irish broadcast medium Raidio na Gaeltachta and pledged a visit this year. “When he returns, Walsh will be assured a royal welcome befitting a native son who has done Connemara proud,” the magazine wrote.

The mayor’s mother Mary and his late father John are natives of Connemara, a legendary region of Galway, although they didn’t meet until both were living in Boston and ran into each other at a local dance hall. Mary Walsh was born in the village of Rosmuc, and her son has a sign in his new office with the words “Rosmuc” on it, a nod to his family’s heritage.

Walsh’s campaign and election were closely tracked in Ireland, often making the front page of newspapers, and the inauguration in January attracted elected officials and residents of Galway, including County Mayor Liam Carroll and City Mayor Padraig Conneely.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at Email us at and follow us on Twitter: @LitDrop and @gintautasd.