Guest Op-Ed: City Employees Deserve our Gratitude and Respect

By John Barros

Public service is a calling, a passion for serving your neighbors, and a drive to create a better community now and for future generations. Almost all of the 18,000 women and men who work for the City of Boston share these values. Teachers, public works hokies, park designers, public safety officials, planners, tellers, parking enforcement attendants, schedulers, building inspectors, and more — they love their city and take pride in their work. While some distrust government and think the worst of public employees, I know how hard they work, what they are up against, and that many of them are underpaid, overworked, and unappreciated.

When I left City Hall in March, I worried that I was leaving my colleagues just as they would be starting to struggle through a transition with an interim mayor, against the backdrop of an election. All after a 15-month period in which City employees continued working and serving residents during a pandemic in which we lost 1,400 lives, thousands of jobs, and hundreds of small businesses. Employees worked through emotional and mental stress while juggling childcare, at-home learning, and family responsibilities. These same people worked around the clock to permit outdoor dining, distribute food and relief grants, and help keep residents as safe as possible. In those 15 months, I saw the true character of our city’s workforce.

 I had conversations with many anxious employees before leaving. I told them to continue working hard and delay any decisions until the long-term trajectory of the City, under the leadership of a duly elected mayor, became clearer. Four months later, hundreds of people have left and are leaving City Hall – a drain of talent and institutional knowledge that will have a grim impact on city services. Some were nervous about what was coming, and sought security in an environment where they wouldn’t be subject to political whim. Some subscribe to the old wisdom that it’s easier to find a job when you have a job. Some moved to the private sector, making more money working fewer hours and with less stress. Many spoke of an environment inside City Hall where they felt they were not part of the team anymore.

So, I want to address City employees who are still there. I see you. I know and appreciate you. I know how much you sacrificed throughout the pandemic, and I am proud of the work we did together. I ask you to stay in place if you can, for the good of the city. If I am able to earn the honor of being your next Mayor, I pledge to listen and explore options for increased flexibility and childcare resources. I pledge to invest in the technology and tools you need to do your jobs successfully. And I promise to invest in your well-being, professional development, and your family’s future. Lastly, I pledge to work with you to unify the workforce, the city, and move us all forward to Boston’s full potential.John Barros is a candidate for Mauyor of Boston and the former Chief of Economic Development for the City of Boston

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