I know what I said. Something like “I’d rather have all my teeth pulled.” Or “I don’t care what anyone says, I won’t.” Or “there’s no way on God’s green earth that will happen.” And I might have used saltier, more definitive language. I remember dismissing John Barros back in early November when he admonished me, saying “don’t say never.” He was right, and here we are. I was presented with the opportunity to help drive the policies of a progressive Mayor to whom I am devoted, in my beloved Boston. How could I say no? I have accepted the position of Chief of Policy in the Martin J. Walsh administration. I am the (second?) luckiest person I know. At a time when national policy is increasingly driven at the municipal level, I will be working on putting into action the values of a great leader, in the City that often leads the nation.
The year started like many before it, with me very happily living a great life, having built a solid public relations business with fantastic clients, surrounded by friends and immersed in all kinds of projects and causes. I was, as I have been for years, dabbling in elections as a volunteer. But in March, my dear friend, Marty Walsh, decided to run for Mayor. I committed to him on that very first night, and over the course of the year, I found myself first as his press person, and then becoming his Policy Director – a position the likes of which I’ve never held before. We assembled a team of hundreds of great, forward-thinking people, and worked together to articulate the values of our candidate – shared values. I learned so much, and had a blast, but had every intention of returning to my life after helping the Mayor-elect transition.
As inauguration day grew closer, I started to experience what can only be described as separation anxiety, but having publicly staked my claim, continued on with my original plan. However, last week, in a small meeting with some of his key transition advisors, the Mayor-elect said, “What if I wanted someone – just as an example – someone like Joyce Linehan, to keep track of our policy initiatives and work with City Hall cabinet heads to figure out how to do what we said we’d do?” Everyone around the table smiled and looked at me. Clearly, there had been at least one meeting to which I had not been invited.
How could I not do this? It’s a mid-life career change for sure – as well as a wholesale cultural change. Aside from one short summer between my junior and senior year of high school at the First National Bank of Boston, I have never actually worked in an office. I seldom wear shoes that aren’t sneakers. I do not own one business suit. This should be interesting.
It would seem that I am the only one who is truly surprised by this. As I have notified family, friends and clients, it has become apparent that this is not unexpected by anyone but me. I will be winding down with my existing clients, who have been great to me – ArtsEmerson, the ICA and the Boston Book Festival. I can’t shake Pernice though, and will continue to co-run the best little indie record label in Dorchester.
I am really excited about the future. So many great people work in City Hall – some who have been there for years, and some whose first day was January 6, 2014. And so many Bostonians care about our shared future. Happy New Year everyone. I’ll see you out there!