Why one newly elected Boston city councilor could start the job early

An unusual series of events means Erin Murphy, who lost her first City Council bid but won in her second try this year, could begin work several weeks ahead of schedule.

Erin Murphy was elected as an at-large councilor, meaning that she potentially could take her spot on the council about a month ahead of the scheduled January swearing-in.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu isn’t the only newly elected official getting an early start on the job.

Due to some persistence and a change of mind, so is her successor.

Boston city councilor-elect Erin Murphy, who won the fourth and final at-large seat on the 13-member body, is slated to join the chamber in December, filling Wu’s vacated seat for a month before she is sworn in for a full term in January.

The reason? Murphy’s unsuccessful sixth-place finish in 2019.

City charter rules say that when an at-large city councilor’s seat becomes vacant, it must be offered to the next-highest vote getter in the previous election. And for awhile, it looked like the fifth-place finisher in the 19 at-large race, Alejandra St. Guillen, would take the opportunity to serve the rest of Wu’s term on the Council, after the at-large city councilor stepped down to become mayor (a respectively quick turnaround caused by the rules about filling a vacated mayoral post).


However, during the City Council’s meeting last week, the chamber put off seating St. Guillen as they sought more clarity about potential conflicts of interest as a result of her position on Boston’s Cannabis Board. As a result, St. Guillen announced the next day that she would pass up the opportunity.

“I had planned on a mid-November start date in order to prepare for the remaining three meetings in this session,” she wrote in a series of tweets last Thursday night. “However, now that yesterday’s vote did not move forward, I believe it is just too brief a tenure, and with my other professional and personal obligations, the timing is not right.”

That meant Murphy, who finished over 3,000 votes behind St. Guillen in sixth in 2019, would be offered the seat next. And she told the Boston Herald she’d take it.

What would have been an oddly brief City Council tenure for St. Guillen will now be a several-week headstart for Murphy, a Dorchester native and former Boston Public School teacher who will be one of five newcomers to the Council in 2022.

“With five new councilors coming in, it will be nice for central staff to get one out of the way,” Murphy told the Herald, adding that she hopes to learn from the several outgoing councilors during their final weeks (the list includes former mayoral candidates Andrea Campbell, Annissa Essaibi George, and Kim Janey, as well as the council’s longest-serving member, Matt O’Malley).

Murphy’s early start isn’t exactly set in stone; the charter gives the city clerk 21 days to notify the council of a vacancy, and then councilors have another 15 days to select a replacement with approval from a simple majority.


The City Council’s next meeting is Wednesday, Dec. 1.

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