Linehan the kingmaker exits the volunteer ranks

Walsh offers her job as director of policy

The woman who gained a reputation as a behind-the-scenes kingmaker in Massachusetts politics is now getting into the game of governing herself. Joyce Linehan, the Dorchester activist who CommonWealth has described as having the most famous living room in Massachusetts politics, is joining the administration of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as its chief of policy.

Linehan was one of six appointments Walsh announced at an early afternoon briefing on Tuesday at City Hall, the mayor’s first full day on the job. The others were Joe Rull, another campaign confidant, who will become Walsh’s director of operations; state Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty, one of Walsh’s closest friends in the Legislature, who was named the city’s corporation counsel; Trinh Nguyen, currently the chief of the staff at the Boston Housing Authority, who will become interim director of jobs and community service; Alejandra St. Guillen, the director of the Latino political group Oiste, who will become interim director of the Office of New Bostonians; and Keith Williams, who worked in the neighborhood services office during the Menino administration, will become interim director of the office of small businesses.

Linehan’s living room in Dorchester became a regular destination for nearly every major Democratic politician in Massachusetts after she hosted a house party for Elizabeth Warren that helped launch Warren’s successful run for the US Senate. What made Linehan’s endorsement especially attractive was her willingness to support and work for a candidate without expecting anything in return. She was in it for the candidate and his or her policies, not for the job or the political influence that could accompany a campaign victory.

She brought the same volunteer approach to the Walsh campaign, working first in communications and later as his policy director. Linehan acknowledged in a blog post on Tuesday that she told everyone who would listen that she had no interest in collecting a paycheck from the Walsh campaign or in joining his administration. I know this is true because I asked her point-blank whether she intended to ever become more than a volunteer and she assured me that would never happen.

But she says her thinking changed after Walsh won and she began having “separation anxiety.” In her blog post, she said: “I was presented with the opportunity to help drive the policies of a progressive mayor to whom I am devoted, in my beloved Boston. How could I say no?”

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Linehan described her role as director of policy as “helping department heads figure out how to operationalize” plans and programs that Walsh rolled out in issue papers during his campaign.

Michael Jonas also contributed to this story.