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At City Hall, A Transition Rife With Symbolism

BOSTON — Marty Walsh will be sworn in as Boston’s new mayor Monday, but the transition to a new era at City Hall was already in full swing this weekend.

A pair of key appointments to the Walsh Administration and a last-minute twist in the fight for the City Council presidency both underscored the emergence of a new Boston — younger and more diverse — in city politics.

During the campaign, Mayor-elect Marty Walsh argued that his union ties will give him a leg up in negotiations with city unions. (Joe Spurr/WBUR)

During the campaign, Mayor-elect Marty Walsh argued that his union ties will give him a leg up in negotiations with city unions. (Joe Spurr/WBUR)

Walsh announced the appointment of Daniel Arrigg Koh, general manager of online video channel HuffPost Live, as his chief of staff Saturday. And on Sunday, he said departing City Councilor At-Large Felix Arroyo will serve as his chief of health and human services.

“It’s good to be under 35, I guess, if you’re looking for a job with Marty Walsh,” said Arroyo, 34, in the hallway of the Old South Church Sunday, as preachers and church choirs led an interfaith service in Walsh’s honor.

Koh, an Andover native and former adviser to departing Mayor Tom Menino, is 29.

The appointments give the new administration a patina of youth and energy. They also signal Walsh, the Dorchester-bred son of Irish immigrants, will build an administration that reflects an increasingly diverse and cosmopolitan city.

Walsh, at a brunch for some 900 senior citizens at Northeastern University Sunday, allowed that Koh — a political outsider who holds bachelors and masters degrees from Harvard University — is a sort of counterpoint to the blue-collar mayor with a thick Boston accent.

“He’s completely opposite in a lot of ways,” said Walsh. “We had a little conversation. We both agree that we love the Patriots…We have agreement there.”

The 13-member City Council will pick a new council president Monday afternoon, after the panel is sworn in at Walsh’s inauguration. And on Saturday, City Councilor At-Large Ayanna Pressley announced an 11th-hour bid for the post.

Pressley, in an interview with WBUR, pitched herself as an inclusive leader. And she acknowledged the symbolic weight of a woman of color vying for — and possibly winning — the presidency.

“We live in a very diverse city,” she said. “It’s one of the things that makes Boston the great city that it is. So we can celebrate our diversity. But what I think we’re striving to do is get to a place where we’re not only diverse, but where there’s shared power.”

Before this weekend, the battle for the council presidency pitted South Boston City Councilor Bill Linehan — who many consider a symbol of the old guard in city politics — against two councilors from the liberal wing of the panel: Matt O’Malley and Tito Jackson.

Last month, Linehan announced that he had majority support, including a crucial commitment from incoming City Councilor At-Large Michelle Wu.

Wu’s decision to back Linehan brought a torrent of criticism from liberal activists who supported her in November.

Linehan has supported the exclusion of gays and lesbians from South Boston’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade and initially opposed Haitian-American state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry taking over the neighborhood’s St. Patrick’s Day roast.

Former City Councilor John Tobin Jr. said the late entry of Pressley — the council’s top vote-getter in the fall election — will force an even tougher decision on Wu.

“Fellow at-large councilor, the only other female on the body,” he said. “It’s pressure.”

Wu did not respond to a request for comment.

Walsh, for his part, declined to weigh in on the council fight in a chat with reporters Sunday. He said council politics are not his domain and that he had enough to worry about staffing his administration.

Walsh’s push to tap young, data-driven talent isn’t novel. Menino, in the closing years of his administration, made a similar move.

Menino’s final chief of staff Mitchell Weiss is, like Koh, a Harvard MBA. The pair are friends.

In addition to the Koh and Arroyo appointments, Walsh announced the reappointment of School Committee member Hardin L.K. Coleman and the appointment of Michael Loconto, a labor relations lawyer, to the panel.

Loconto replaces School Committee member Mary Tamer, an outspoken supporter of Walsh’s opponent in the final mayoral election — City Councilor At-Large John Connolly.

Walsh said he would not announce any new appointments Monday, with the inauguration taking center stage.

But he said he will announce new hires — and a restructuring of city government that will include consolidation of departments and a more streamlined cabinet — Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

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