Acting Mayor Kim Janey on Wednesday was formally sworn in to the post she moved into Monday night with the departure of Martin J. Walsh for a job as labor secretary in the Biden administration.
Janey, a Roxbury resident who previously served as City Council president, took the oath of office shortly after noon Wednesday during a ceremony at City Hall.
“Today is a new day,” Janey said after taking the oath. “I stand before you as the first woman, and the first Black mayor of Boston, the city that I love, and come to this day with life experience that is different from the men who came before me.”
She noted she has “deep roots” in the city and comes from “a long line of proud educators, entrepreneurs, artists, and advocates. … As a girl growing up in Boston, I was nurtured by a family who believed in me and surrounded by good neighbors who knew my name. It was my village.”
Janey also recounted a traumatic experience from her childhood, when she was bused as an 11-year-old girl in the 1970s to a school in Charlestown as part of the city’s efforts at the time to desegregate the Boston Public Schools.
“I had rocks and racial slurs thrown at my bus, simply for attending school while Black,” Janey said. “And just yesterday, on my first full day as mayor, I visited my childhood alma mater. I saw students happy to be back in school with their teachers and friends, instead of the pain and trauma that I had experienced in middle school.”
To make her college dreams a reality, Janey said, she cleaned bathrooms as a young mother to afford tuition at Smith College.
“Like so many others, I felt my first call to give back to the city that I love,” Janey said. “I volunteered for Mel King’s historic grassroots campaign for mayor in Boston [in the 1980s]. And now, here I am making history of my own.”
She said she’ll continue fighting for equity as mayor.
“Unemployment rates for residents of color spiked higher at the start of the pandemic,” Janey said. “Over the past year, the same communities hardest hit by the public health crisis have experienced the highest rates of housing and food insecurity. I will address these economic disparities with new urgency to reopen Boston’s economy with equity.”
She said she’ll also work to increase city contracts to companies owned by people of color and also continue to pursue police reform.
“I have advocated to address racial profiling and excessive use of force and ban the use of facial recognition software,” Janey said. “As mayor, I will continue to be an advocate and lead the implementation of these reforms. Together, working with our Police Department, I am determined to bring safety, healing, and justice to all of our neighborhoods.”
Chief Justice Kimberly Budd of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court administered the oath, and US Representative Ayanna Pressley presided over the ceremony. Reverend Willie Bodrick II, senior pastor at the Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury, delivered the invocation.
“It is a great day,” Pressley said. “Another history-making day in an unprecedented week. … Today Kim Janey, a fourth-generation daughter of Roxbury, as the first Black mayor and the first woman [mayor] in our city.”
Janey, Pressley said, has “earned the confidence and the trust of her constituents and her peers. … She will lead with empathy and conviction to ensure no individual or family is left behind as we recover from the crisis we face, and she will set the stage for a more just and equitable future.”
Bodrick said during his earlier prayer that Janey takes office during “such a difficult juncture in our city” when the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequality.
“There is still hope for healing,” Bodrick said.
In the days leading up to Walsh’s departure, Janey had commissioned a committee to help facilitate her transition from the council to the mayor’s office, and several key Walsh staffers will remain in her administration, including Chris Osgood, the former chief of streets who will now serve as her chief of staff.
In addition to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, several key policy decisions are looming. Janey will have to consider the future of Dennis White, whom Walsh appointed police commissioner in January and then suspended days later after the Globe inquired into domestic violence allegations made against him two decades ago. White has remained on leave while an independent investigator has probed the matter.
Additionally, Janey will oversee the city’s efforts to increase the number of city contracts that go to women and vendors of color, following a study that found significant disparities in the way the contracts are handed out. Janey helped lead the push for the study, as a councilor.
Janey hasn’t said whether she’ll seek a full term in office as a general election candidate in November. Should she decide to enter the race, she’ll join a crowded field that includes some of her former council colleagues.
“I promise to bring urgency to this job, and strive to make positive change happen in every neighborhood in our city,” Janey said in her speech. “In my administration, there will always be a place for those who have felt left out power. And I will also welcome those who have held power to join us in building a better future. I will work each day so that all residents have opportunities to learn, earn, and thrive. I vow to be a mayor for the entire city, for every neighborhood, and for you. If we all work together, there is nothing that Boston can’t accomplish.”
She told reporters during a later briefing that it was especially gratifying to be sworn in with so many family members in attendance.
“My heart is just so full with gratitude to be able to experience this moment with four generations,” Janey said. “Sadly, my dad isn’t here to see this day. He passed away last February, but just incredibly grateful for the opportunity.”
She said the Bible used during the ceremony “belonged to my grandfather, a Baptist preacher, my mom’s dad. So, to have my mom hand that Bible to my granddaughter for me to be sworn to take the oath of office, was just an incredible feeling.”