Not many people can say that they’ve worked at the mayor’s office, under the leadership of two different mayors, while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic both as a Boston resident and an employee in a government office—however, Jessica Silverman can. Jessica is a third-year Political Science major with a minor in Journalism. During her first co-op, she worked as Press Assistant with the Boston mayor’s office from January to June 2021.
While Jessica worked in the mayor’s office, Walsh abruptly ended his seven year long tenure as mayor of Boston when he was appointed to be the United States Secretary of Labor by President Biden. Walsh officially assumed his new role in March 2021, though the preparations for his resignation began about one week into Jessica’s co-op. In his place, Boston City Council President Kim Janey was appointed as acting mayor. Jessica spent most of her time in the mayor’s office under Janey’s leadership.
Jessica spoke with us about her co-op experience, including her responsibilities in the position, how the transition between the mayors affected her co-op, how her coursework prepared her for the role, and more.
Why did you want this co-op position?
One of my friends had done this co-op before me, and when she told me about the job it sparked my interest because it presented an opportunity to explore the intersection between political science and journalism. This job meant engaging with journalists and media outlets, which I have a good amount of experience with, however I was engaging with them from a governmental and political position which is something I had not done before. It was a little bit of something familiar and something new, and that really interested me.
What responsibilities did the job entail and what did you enjoy about it?
I loved that what I did at work varied from day to day. Some of responsibilities included collecting media clips that mentioned the city or its initiatives, or the mayor. I also managed the press office Gmail account. Media inquiries would be sent in for the mayor’s office from the media outlets like the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, WGBH, or others. I would then delegate those requests to the appropriate department to get a response for their inquiries. On top of this, I helped write social media posts for the mayor, scheduled our daily tweets, and occasionally made graphics for the mayor’s office to post on various social media platforms.
In what ways did the transition between Mayor Marty Walsh and Mayor Kim Janey affect your work?
It was hectic, but I thrive in a high-paced environment. It was cool to see the office in a transition state and observe what that looks like. During the transition, I helped coordinate Mayor Janey’s swearing-in event and I would help staff various related press releases. Though I enjoyed all the excitement, the transition between mayors was also a bit challenging because many of the members on my team left and I had to adjust to their absence. My original boss, who was the head of communications at the time, left a little while after Mayor Walsh did. That meant I had to adjust to a new boss with only about one month left in my co-op, so I had to quickly learn how to adapt to a different managerial style. The silver lining to people leaving was that I got to take on more responsibility that I maybe wouldn’t have had the chance to do otherwise. Ultimately, I grew from this experience by learning how to work with many different people with varying working styles. I also learned how to work on my feet and respond to any situation quickly.
The office generally looked fairly different under Mayor Walsh and Mayor Janey, but mostly for external factors. For example, as a senate-nominee Mayor Walsh was no longer allowed to answer questions at press conferences anymore. On top of this, while Mayor Walsh was in office, due to the COVID-19 pandemic there were a lot more restrictions in terms of being able to attend in-person events compared to under Mayor Janey when restrictions were eased. Under Mayor Janey I was able to learn more about how to work with the media during a press conference in-person and in the moment. I was also able to go with her to in-person events in Roxbury, her home district, and see her interact with her community, which was moving. Communities like Roxbury are often underrepresented in Boston leadership, and Mayor Janey’s commitment to the community she grew up in really shined through as she talked with people at these events. The people of Roxbury loved her, and they thanked her for standing up for them throughout her term.
What did you learn from your time at the mayor’s office?
I learned a lot about how much local politics impacts the city, and how much power the mayor has in many different ways. I got to interact with a lot of city departments everyday. One day, I was executing a communication strategy for the public health commission about different COVID-19 vaccine sites. The next day I’d be making an Instagram graphic about Boston street cleaning. So, I really got a sense of the different ways the mayor’s office maintains and tries to improve the city. I also saw how important it was for the mayor to interact directly with local communities. I think both administrations did a good job of making sure they were connecting with local leaders and ensuring their inputs and perspectives were considered before any executive action was taken.
On top of this, I also learned about the importance of connecting with local media outlets. Obviously connecting with papers like the Boston Globe and Boston Herald is also important, but there are smaller, local papers like Dorchester Reporter, Sampan Newspaper, Bay State Banner, and Jamaica Plain Gazette are also really important.
These local papers help meet people where they are and keep them informed of what’s relevant to them. Local news has been struggling for a long while now, so it’s important that we prioritize keeping them in business so that we can keep uplifting every community and be confident that people can access the information they need.
Especially with COVID-19 information, it was really important that we were reaching as many people as possible about where people of every community could get vaccines and where they could get tested.
What are the benefits of having more diverse leadership in the Boston mayor’s office?
Boston is such a diverse city. There’s so many things about it that make it so special and you can learn something new everyday. It’s why I love Boston and why I came here for school. Having leadership that’s representative of the city’s diversity and can address complex needs of diverse communities. This is something non-diverse leadership would not be able to accomplish as well. I think Mayor Janey took some important steps to address diversity. For example, she instituted the B-Local plan to encourage visiting small businesses that were struggling because of the pandemic, especially Black-owned and woman-owned businesses, and other minority-owned businesses. It was a really special initiative that I got to be a part of during my time at the office. I think current Mayor Michelle Wu is going to continue that work and I’m really looking forward to seeing what she accomplishes.
Mayor Walsh set a good foundation in terms of supporting diversity initiatives. Mayor Janey took it a step further. And now Mayor Wu, I’m sure, will only do the same. Some specifics I’m looking forward to under Mayor Wu are more initiatives concerning police accountability. I am also excited about the Green New Deal platform that Michelle Wu ran on. I’m a big advocate for climate change initiatives. My interactions with the parks department and the environmental department at the mayor’s office were all so great, and I think the city is really going to embrace these green initiatives. Mayor Janey had already gotten the ball rolling by doing a lot for city recycling programs, but I don’t think it was her biggest concern but it is for Mayor Wu. She has a lot of big ideas that are really going to spearhead change for the better in Boston.
What are you up to next?
My position at the mayor’s office helped reinforce my idea that political communications is an area that I’m really passionate about, and also taught me a lot about myself and my working style. So, as I was looking for my second co-op, I was looking for a similar position. This upcoming spring, I’ll be working at The Novus Group, a political consulting firm as a public affairs co-op. I expect this to be a fairly similar position but will also give me an opportunity to explore the private sector.