A Day in the Life of Council President Michelle Wu

By Joseph Prezioso

In spending a day with Council President Michelle Wu, one quickly sees her talk is her walk.

The sun hadn’t quite made it up Thursday morning when City Council President Michelle Wu began rushing around her Roslindale home to get out the door and get on the go.

A lone jogger chugged up her hill.

Most of the city remained quiet – aside from the crickets – yet Councilor Wu’s door could be heard closing behind her.

Having wished her husband, Conor, and son, Blaise, goodbye, she headed to the commuter rail station in Roslindale Square.

As the sun rose, Wu was on a commuter train to Back Bay Station to attend a United Way fundraiser. Unrecognized by most, she took a seat on the train and pulled out her number one tool, her cell phone. She checked her schedule, emails and messages; she has a busy day ahead, even by her standards. Before she even arrived to her City Hall office, she had a United Way Women’s Leadership Breakfast, a visit to a school and numerous interviews with television, print and radio media regarding a fire that had occurred on an Orange Line train the previous evening – trapping riders in the smokey subway car and exacerbating the concerns that already exist with the MBTA.

Wu frequently advocates for improved public transportation services, and with the previous day’s incident on the Orange Line, every media outlet wanted to talk to her. As she got off at Back Bay to go to the fundraiser, she had several media requests for interviews. She looked for Fox 25 News; they were nowhere to be found. Wu called them, only to realize they were on the other side of the station. After the interview, it was off to the Marriott Hotel, but not before she was recognized by Sam Chan, who was leaving the subway and wanted to compliment her on her work.

Wu quickly walked from Back Bay Station to the Marriott, her steps hurried due to the interviews having taken longer than expected. She checked in, hung her jacket and wondered if she should change from her boots to her dress shoes, which she always keeps in her purse. She decided to keep her boots on, as she was not speaking at the event. Wu wandered through the ballroom, filled with hundreds of people, and found her table with a member of the host committee, Sandy Lish of Charlestown’s The Castle Group.

The event was aimed at promoting women getting into leadership roles and helping those in need. Not long after the event started, coordinators asked for donations, this time with the help of the projection system and smart phones. Everyone was asked to text the amount he or she would donate, and as they donated, their names showed up on a screen next to a thermometer reflecting the donations in real time.

Their goal was to reach $50,000.

Wu’s name was up on the screen quickly, within the first few dozen donations.

Not long after starting, the room had raised more than $54,000.

As the breakfast’s keynote speaker was wrapping up her speech, Wu quietly exited the ballroom to take a phone call from the Boston Herald. When she was done with the interview, she met with her staff member, Annie Qin. They grabbed their jackets and made their way to the escalators to exit the hotel and head back to Back Bay Station where again, TV news crews waited for her.

After being bombarded with questions about her feelings on the MBTA and what should be done, she made her way to the subway. Bounding on another train to Chinatown/South End, she prepared to visit the Josiah Quincy Lower School.

All the way there, though, Wu was in discussion with Qin about the nature of the visit. They made calls and answered emails during the remainder of the journey. Upon arrival at the school, Wu was brought to the cafeteria where she sang “The Dragon Song” with students. Not long after that, she was ushered to a K-2 classroom where she read “The Bumpy Little Pumpkin” to a group of students. Before reading, Wu made a point to introduce herself, talk a little about her job, and ask each student to introduce him/herself. After, Wu visited a second grade classroom and joined students as they did jumping jacks and other movement exercises as a break activity.

From there, it’s back to the train and to City Hall.

Wu mostly maneuvered the City unnoticed and unbothered. Though she is readily recognized by many, she also is still able to at times go unrecognized, enjoying the anonymity of a person out of the limelight.

Wu entered City Hall and made her way through security. Then it was up the stairs to her office.

No elevators. Not one elevator all day; except for the elevator to the garage – where there are no stairs.

In fact, Wu walks, bikes, takes the train and sometimes runs more than the average person – consistently living out the world view she hopes to bring about through the policies she fights for and believes in. Up the stairs and in her office, she took a conference call with advisors for the proposed municipal identification card – a top priority of her office since earlier this year. They discussed the urgency of the card for many residents in Boston, and which organizations were planning to attend and testify at that afternoon’s hearing.

Before she can get to the matter of the ID card hearing, Wu had to get to a meeting in Fort Point – meeting with residents in an emerging neighborhood.  Wu headed to the parking garage, and where others kept cars, Wu kept something different.

In her parking spot, between the other councilors’ cars, was her bicycle and helmet. Wu donned her helmet and exited the garage on bike to Fort Point for a neighborhood meeting to address issues facing businesses and residents in the area.

After an hour-long discussion, it was back to City Hall.

Wu made it to City Hall precisely before it started to pour rain, but she noted that she isn’t always so lucky. More than a few times, she said she had been out in a deluge and had to improvise once back at her office.

In her office, adorned with a digital piano that she often plays and Lego toy blocks that her son often plays with, she fixed her hair after getting bicycle ‘helmet head’ and returned to her desk to answer emails. Soon after, it was time for a photo op to promote the Pan Mass Challenge in the Council Chambers with Mayor Martin Walsh.

In effect exchanging her real bike for a stationary bike, she rode with Mayor Walsh and other councilors in the Council Chambers.

The rest of her day entailed a staff meeting, then a radio interview and finally, the municipal ID hearing. The municipal ID is a proposal that Wu put forth earlier this year and would allow residents who cannot get a government-issued ID the ability to get a City-issued ID. This, she said, would allow those residents to be able to enter a federal office building and to access City services.

Before any of that, though, Wu needed to eat.

She headed to a nearby restaurant to get a burrito; she chose chicken.

In the drizzle, she went back through security and up to her office on the stairs.

One level, two levels, three levels.

Once in the staff meeting, they discussed current events, heard meeting notes and got updates on what City meetings staff members had attended.

As an at large councilor, Wu represents the entire City of Boston. Each of her staff members acts as a liaison for different neighborhoods across the city, in addition to splitting other responsibilities.

Wu ate her burrito while staffers briefed her on their activities. Staff members discussed scheduling requests, press requests, and various constituent cases they had been working on. During the meeting, Wu also checked her phone several times for incoming messages and Twitter updates.

At 3 p.m., Wu and her staff reported to the Council Chambers for the hearing. With a room of supporters, fellow councilors, and a panel of officials from the Police, Mayor’s Office and other City positions, Wu made her case to the panel that the time was right for the ID, and that the City should make a firm commitment to launching the program as quickly as possible.

With the end of the hearing, Wu headed back to her office, grabbed her jacket and picked up her son, who had been in daycare at City Hall all day.

As soon as Wu opened the daycare door, her son Blaise ran towards her – happy to see his mom. She scooped him up and headed out of City Hall with him in her arms. She headed to the Orange Line, where they rode home.

But going home did not mean that the day was over.

There was dinner to cook for the family, and a conference call she needed to make with fellow board members of a non-profit board that she serves on. She planned to cook the family meal while taking the phone call – while also preparing a costume for Blaise that he would wear to a Halloween party later in the evening. After dinner and the call, she and Blaise headed off to the Halloween party at the Emerald Society near her Roslindale home.

They went as characters from Fox in Socks – the Dr. Seuss classic.

After about an hour at the party, they arrived back home and called it a day.

Friday looked to bring another day on the go.

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