Botwc Firsts

Kim Janey Just Became The First Black Person and First Woman Mayor of Boston

Kim Janey Just Became The First Black Person and First Woman Mayor of Boston

She is redefining the political landscape!

Kim Janey has taken over as Boston's acting mayor, becoming the city's first Black chief executive. The Boston City Council President and city councilor for District 7 will also be Boston's first woman mayor.

The 55-year-old Roxbury native stepped into the role at 9:01 p.m. Monday, a minute after former mayor Marty Walsh submitted a letter of resignation following his confirmation as the secretary of labor for the Biden administration. In the city's charter, the sitting council president serves as acting mayor should a sitting mayor resign mid-term.

“It is surreal,” she told The Boston Globe. “Particularly when I think of my own background growing up. Just seeing how far our city has come. It’s amazing.”

On her first day, she made her inaugural event at Edwards Middle School, where she was bused from her home in South End as the city worked towards desegregation in the 1970s. At the time, the school was a painful reminder of hate. She at times needed a police escort to dissuade racist protestors. Tuesday morning, her return was a source of joy.

"To be able to see schoolchildren today engaged in their learning and being supported by their teachers, I think it's really important to show how far we have come as a city, and so I wanted to start here," Janey told the Boston Globe. "Right now, we want to make sure we are getting schoolchildren safely back in their classrooms with their teachers, with their peers.

She continued, "We also have to make sure we are making up for time lost in the classroom and so I’ll be working with the superintendent and her team to make sure we do just that.” 

The former education advocate is a staunch advocate for equality and justice, she ran her campaign for City Council with those values in mind. During her three years as a council member, she has played an essential part in the city's pivotal moments. She's lead pertinent policy discussions, a committee with the greatest number of women and people of color in the city's history, reformed public safety, and implemented health and education programs. She has often been on opposite sides of the fence as Mayor Walsh, advocating for more authority on behalf of the council to help develop housing and economic policies.

Janey is responsible for developing the city's first ordinance choosing potential marijuana operators, and working with protestors this past spring to create a "Black and Brown Agenda" to serve under-resourced communities. If Walsh leaves after March 5th, Janey will serve as acting mayor until the November election. If he leaves before, a special election will be held within 120 to 140 days of his departure.

Janey raised her family in Roxbury, and this is her second term as a council member. Her parents were both educators, and she is the former project director at Massachusetts Advocates for Children. The councilor considers her Roxbury neighborhood "ground zero" for many of Boston's major issues, including racial and economic inequity, the affordable housing crisis, an opioid epidemic, and a transportation issue that has left city traffic in shambles.

"Every mayor of this city has been a white male. [Janey] is no novice to politics, and she's not new to the community," Michael Curry, president of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, said.

Political strategist Wilnelia Rivera echoed Curry's sentiments, saying, "I think this is a moment that represents a lot for that particular neighborhood. I really look forward to seeing what it means to be a city led by Kim Janey."

As mayor, Janey will tackle the current COVID-19 pandemic in Boston that has already claimed more than 1,000 lives in the city. She would also focus on addressing police misconduct and an economic downturn as a result of the pandemic. The last time a sitting mayor resigned in Boston was in 1993, former district councilor Thomas M. Menino using the opportunity to open doors for a line of candidates to win the job outright. Janey has not yet announced whether she will parlay her acting mayoral role into a full run for mayor if the option presents itself. The city of Boston will have to wait and see.

"It's still so surreal, it really is," said Janey of her being mayor. "To quote Lizzo, I felt good, I'll leave it at that, I won't finish the sentence," she told reporters with a laugh.

She's being supported by fellow Bostonians and her political peers.

Congratulations on breaking barriers, Madam Mayor!

Photo Courtesy of David L. Ryan/Boston Globe Staff