Michelle Wu’s personal path to politics

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu confirmed earlier this month what had been widely speculated for more than a year — she will run for mayor next year. 

Wu has, in very short order, become a political force to be reckoned with in the city. She placed second in the at-large council race in her first run for office, in 2013, a feat she repeated two years later before going on to top the at-large ticket in the last two city elections. 

The 35-year-old city councilor has become a leading voice for systemic change — whether it’s her call for a comprehensive restructuring of the city’s approach to planning and development or battling a recent MBTA fare hike by advancing the idea of free transit, an idea that only recently seemed fanciful but has begun to gain traction and spur important discussion of transit policy. 

Wu is, by conventional standards, an unlikely figure to be challenging a sitting Boston mayor (though incumbent Mayor Marty Walsh has yet to declare his candidacy, he is widely expected to seek a third term next year). She is shy by temperament, and when she entered Harvard as an undergraduate in 2004, according to an Atlantic magazine profile last year, politics was so removed from Wu’s upbringing that she considered herself neither a Democrat nor a Republican. 

Our conversation this week with Wu on The Codcast focused more on getting to know her than on details of campaign policy points she’ll be advancing. The picture that emerges reveals how various strands of her family history, childhood, and college years, even if removed from formal involvement in politics, connect in ways that make a future in public service not that unlikely after all.