Yi-An Huang, a Cambridge resident who is executive director of the nonprofit Boston Medical Center, was elected by city council to be the next city manager.
Although there was much praise for the four finalists to replace City Manager Louis A. DePasquale after he left on July 5, the only Huang finalist with votes to show was Cheryl Watson Fisher. She is a former resident of The Port and is still a solicitor in Cambridge, although it was her current role as a municipal solicitor in Chelsea that put her within reach of the role of city manager.
The final vote for Huang was 8 to 1, with only Councilwoman E. Denise Simmons standing for Fisher in the end. On a first ballot, the tally was 6-3 for Huang against Fisher, but councilors Marc McGovern and Paul Toner reversed their votes to give the next city manager ‘a strong supporting vote’, in the words of Toner.
The other candidates were Iram Farooq, assistant city manager for the Department of Community Development since 2015, who received the second verbal support as councilors circled the room to explain their thoughts on the vote they were on. the point of formalizing; and Norman Khumalo, City Manager of Hopkinton.
The search process led by Vice Mayor Alanna Mallon since January has attracted 30 applications from potential city managers nationwide. This was narrowed down to 10 and then to five finalists. One dropped out, Councilor Dennis Carlone said.
Huang and Fisher won strong support in public comments ahead of Monday’s vote, although there were about twice as many speakers backing Huang as Fisher. About 60% of emails sent to advisers were in favor of Huang, Carlone said.
“There’s not one person I’ve contacted who hasn’t been impressed” by Huang, Mallon said.
An anecdote from resident Carol Weiss about Huang was particularly powerful for Mallon.
“He knew I was alone and didn’t have a car. One day he just offered to come once a week and we could go [shopping at] Market basket together. That was many years ago, and we’ve been doing it ever since,” Weiss said. “He takes me home. It transports in my races. When I came home from the hospital after having had a stroke several years ago, Yi-an told me to give him a list and he did my shopping for me until I was able to. do it. I tell you this to illustrate his character.
Councilor Patty Nolan, meanwhile, was struck to learn that Huang had taken in three young Afghan refugees — and that she heard it in the residents’ testimony, not as something Huang said about himself — even during the selection process. The fact that Huang had children in Cambridge public schools also had an impact.
Fisher’s vote could have been ‘historic’
Fisher, however, represented something more to The Port and black residents of Cambridge, who saw his potential appointment as a statement.
After 11 white men have led the city since 1942, “it’s high time to break the status quo and appoint a woman and a woman of color,” Councilwoman E. Denise Simmons said, calling Fisher’s appointment a “imperative”.
“She knows what it’s like to be less than and lift people up,” Simmons said, calling for a vote for Fisher “so we can say we not only did the right thing, but the right thing. historical…so we can tell little girls and boys [of Cambridge]you can be mayor and you can be city manager.
Fisher is a partner at a 12-year-old law firm, Galluccio & Watson, where she practices family law with high school friend Anthony Galluccio, a former councilman, mayor and state senator who now represents top proponents of Cambridge. Although a social media and email campaign swept across town over the weekend in support of her as city manager, Fisher was the only candidate forced to answer questions about a conflict of interest. potential in a public forum.
Although Huang lacks direct experience in municipal government, he noted last week that BMC is a $4 billion nonprofit with 8,000 employees serving about 1 million patients a year. Cambridge has a budget of $787.9 million and 3,564 employees. Both have financial, legal, regulatory and technological components and a diverse group of stakeholders. “A big part of the purpose of Boston Medical Center and the purpose of the City of Cambridge is really service, and the ways we can invest in our community in those who are most vulnerable,” Huang said, and that means having clear objectives, accountability, plans and timelines. “These are general management functions [where I’ve] been very effective… I also see similar aspects in how you build culture and hold leaders accountable and how we think about diversity, equity and inclusion.
After the vote nominating Huang, the council met in a closed session to discuss negotiating a contract with him and to consider appointing an interim city manager. They returned to approve the hiring of a lawyer to formally begin negotiations and identify Public Works Commissioner Owen O’Riordan as intervening between DePasquale’s July 5 departure and whenever Huang is able to start work. .
“It would be an almost seamless transition with someone from [O’Riordan’s] caliber,” Carlone said. There would be a weekly allowance of $2,500 to bridge the gap between his salary and DePasquale’s. (Farooq had not been considered for the acting role because she was a candidate for the permanent role, Mallon said.)
There may be even more to consider for the next city manager: filling the position of deputy city manager, which has been vacant since Lisa Peterson retired in January 2021 for what was supposed to be health reasons. During a budget hearing in May 2021, Mallon urged DePasquale to hire a new deputy “fairly quickly” — someone qualified to serve as acting city manager if needed. Despite his legal obligation to make the appointment, DePasquale did not do so or explain his decision as he assured the board.
In other news on Monday, newly appointed City Clerk Diane LeBlanc said she will officially start work July 25.