Boston Has Its First Black and First Woman Mayor: 'To Quote Lizzo, I Felt Good'

In the 199 years since the city of Boston has had a mayor, only white men have filled the role. Until Monday, that is, when Kim Janey became the first woman and first Black person to serve as Boston's chief executive, stepping in as acting mayor following Marty Walsh's departure.

Walsh, 53, submitted his letter of resignation as mayor on Monday evening after being confirmed to serve as the U.S. secretary of labor under President Joe Biden.

Janey, 55 — the city council president — took over as mayor just one minute later, at 9:01 p.m., according to CNN.

"It is surreal," Janey told The Boston Globe about her new role. "Particularly when I think of my own background growing up. Just seeing how far our city has come. It's amazing."

Walsh's nomination came in January, at which point Janey became poised to take on the role, due to the city charter's stipulation that the Boston City Council president step in as acting mayor should the role become vacant.

Following that announcement, Janey tweeted to offer her congratulations, adding that she was ready to take on the role of acting mayor.

"Should he be confirmed, I'm ready to take the reins and lead our city through these difficult times," Janey wrote. "I look forward to working w/ the Walsh administration and my colleagues on the Council to ensure a smooth transition, as we address the unprecedented challenges facing our city."

On Twitter on Monday, Walsh offered his successor congratulations, writing, "I know you are going to continue serving our city and supporting an equitable recovery from #COVID19. I am always here for you, my friend."

As Boston.com notes, there are differences between Walsh and Janey's roles.

As acting mayor, the latter cannot permanently appoint people to fill roles or is empowered to do timely work "not admitting of delay." Janey can sign ordinances passed by the city council as well as government contracts and grants, and she make temporary appointments for city agency or department roles, to serve until an elected mayor is sworn in.

How long she will serve remains to be seen.

Boston has both a preliminary election and general election scheduled for September and November, with some candidates already campaigning to be the next mayor (Janey has also been rumored to be considering a bid for a full term).

According to the city charter, Boston is required to also hold a special election before March 5, 2021, due to a stipulation that there must be a special election if a mayor vacates office within 16 months of the last citywide election.

City officials are already mulling overriding the special election requirement, however, meaning the next mayor would likely be chosen in November.

According to the city of Boston's website, Janey's focus while she serves the remainder of Walsh's term will be on "leading Boston through the COVID-19 pandemic with a citywide agenda for recovery, reopening and renewal."

A lifelong Bostonian, Janey previously worked as a community organizer and was first elected to the city council in 2017.

She made her first public appearance as the city's acting executive on Tuesday, delivering remarks at Edwards Middle School, which she attended as a child after being bused there during desegregation in the 1970s.

Noting that being in the school brought back "tough, tough memories," Janey said "this is a new day in Boston" and spoke about the need to get kids safely back in classrooms amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Right now we want to make sure we are getting schoolchildren safely back in their classrooms with their teachers, with their peers," Janey said, as reported by The Boston Globe. "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."

She told the Globe her first day in office "felt good" albeit "surreal."

"To quote Lizzo, I felt good, I'll leave it at that, I won't finish the sentence," she said with a laugh, according to the paper.

Janey's formal swearing-in ceremony is set for Wednesday.

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