Mayor Kim Janey: “The First but Not the Last”

Mayor Kim Janey
(East Boston, MA 9/8/21) Mayor Kim Janey visits LoPresti Park. (Mayor’s Office Photo by John Wilcox)

When I arrived at the Mayor’s Office eight months ago, I hung two prints on my wall. The first is an iconic Boston Magazine cover, with a heart-shaped collection of running shoes memorializing the strength and resilience of our city after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The headline reads, “We will finish this race.” The second depicts a silhouette of Kamala Harris, the first woman and the first person of color to be Vice President of the United States, alongside the shadow of a young Ruby Bridges, the first Black student to integrate New Orleans Public Schools just 61 years ago. Below the two iconic figures, an inscription reads: “The First But Not the Last.”

These two prints offered daily reminders of my two-part mission to provide comfort and stability for a city in crisis and to make equity the urgent work of our city government

I took office during a time of uncertainty when Boston was facing serious questions about the future. A year of the global pandemic had exhausted our City’s public health infrastructure, depressed our economy, and shut down our schools. Additionally, COVID-19 laid bare the structural inequities that have characterized the challenges facing Boston residents since long before the pandemic. Disparities in wealth and health outcomes came to the fore, along with an urgent need to re-imagine public safety in light of a national reckoning on race and policing. As a city, we encountered obstacle after obstacle, but through it all, Boston stayed strong.

Now, as I leave office, I am proud that our strength and unity in these times of great uncertainty have yielded results. Since March, we have witnessed the reopening of our city, the lowest crime levels in five years, and the return of in-person learning with the highest student attendance record. Most significantly, we came together and equitably distributed vaccines to over 75 percent of our total population, giving us one of the highest vaccination rates in the country among big cities.

Our progress was not limited to vaccines. We were able to address the everyday aspects of Boston residents’ lives that the pandemic had impacted. We made leaps in the housing sector by expanding protection for homeowners, creating the Emergency Foreclosure Prevention Fund, and increasing first-time home-buyer assistance. We supported small businesses struggling through the pandemic with investments in grant-making initiatives. We distributed cash assistance to front-line workers who were denied federal benefits. And, through a new green jobs pipeline targeting a new generation of workers, we created sustainable employment opportunities for a stable, green future.

On a personal level, I felt it was important to use my role to promote joy and encourage our city to seek out and experience collective joy after what has been an arduous and painful period. For this reason, I created the Joy Agenda, the purpose of which is to stimulate our public spaces with healing, justice, and peacemaking activities. We found joy through the observance of Juneteenth as a holiday and the declaration of Indigenous Peoples Day in Boston. We found joy in every neighborhood across the city, painting murals in Jamaica Plain, reopening community gardens in East Boston, and hosting concerts at City Hall Plaza.

I have loved this city my whole life. As a little girl from Roxbury cheering on the runners at Boylston Street on Marathon Monday, I could have never imagined that one day I would be crowning the champions of the 125th edition of our city’s trademark race. Boston has always been home to me – my home by birth, but also my home by choice. And nothing helps you see your city and its people for all their richness and beauty like being Mayor.

To the incredible teachers, police officers, firefighters, EMS workers, front-line workers, custodial staff, and all of those providing services that keep our city running — thank you for being the backbone of our city. I have sought to emulate your dedication and commitment to our community during my time as Mayor. My staff has also worked extremely hard over the past eight months to keep Boston moving forward, demonstrating what we can do when we work together. And to the residents of the great City of Boston, thank you for supporting me and helping me lead this city – it has been my greatest honor serving as Boston’s 55th Mayor. And now, like every woman before me that has broken barriers, I am honored to pass the baton. I congratulate Michelle Wu on becoming the first woman and person of color elected mayor of Boston. I know Mayor Wu will continue to lift up those who have been left out of power and work to make our city more equitable, just, and resilient. The framed words in the mayor’s office became reality. “The first, but not the last.”

I will always cherish the time I spent as your Mayor and encourage you to continue to find joy in every corner of this great city.