Michelle Wu’s pick to lead Boston’s planning and development — Arthur Jemison— will be very well received in this part of the city. Before moving to Detroit seven years ago to lead that city’s planning efforts, Jemison and his family lived in Dorchester, most recently in the tight-knit Ashmont-Adams neighborhood.
Arthur, his wife Annie, and their children were well-liked fixtures at the many civic events for a decade while he worked for the city of Boston and then, for Gov. Deval Patrick.
His appointment will be popular here for all the right reasons: He’s a good and decent man and a devoted public servant who has years of solid, hands-on experience in his chosen field, many of them specifically here in the city of Boston. Among his many local affiliations, Jemison served as vice-chairman of the College Bound Dorchester board of directors.
“This is the culmination of Arthur’s hard work throughout his career, going back to his college days at UMass Amherst,” said Mark Culliton, a close friend and the CEO of College Bound Dorchester.
The development community across the city and region is likely to greet Jemison’s appointment with a sense of relief and cautious optimism. It comes less than a week after news broke that longtime BPDA chief Brian Golden will end his successful tenure at the end of this month. Golden, a former state representative from Brighton, has overseen a period of extraordinary growth in Boston under three mayors— Menino, Walsh, and Wu. His imminent departure— and what that might portend for the continued pace of construction and development across Boston— has been the source of anxiety in recent months among business leaders. Jemison’s appointment will be read by most as a positive signal that Mayor Wu will seek to reform and improve the city’s planning apparatus, not completely upend it.
Much has changed in Boston since Jemison headed to Detroit in 2015. There are many new faces in city government, particularly at the city council and, of course, on the mayor’s staff. But Jemison will be a familiar, even friendly face to many who do business at City Hall from the development side. That’s a welcome dynamic and one that reflects well on the Wu administration.