Councillor Nolan’s statement on the City Manager decision and vote
June 10, 2022
I am excited that the City Manager search process has finally concluded and that we are in this moment of selection of our next leader. While compressed, the search was ably led by Vice Mayor Mallon and our search consultant. I am grateful to the Vice Mayor and Mayor who spent countless hours over the last few months to get us to this place with a robust comprehensive search in record time. And, I want to thank the 30 applicants from across the country. They each filled out extensive questionnaires and put themselves out there. I was honored to be on the search committee from which the four finalists before us emerged. The range of experience was impressive, and we had excellent choices. As has been said by all my colleagues, the choice was difficult since the candidates all have different strengths, and the four candidates each impressed me in different ways.
After reading, researching, talking, and reaching out to many people, I will be voting for YiAn Huang. He is a candidate who will bring a fresh perspective to bring progressive change. He has a demonstrated ability to get things done, and to do things urgently. To bring people together. His children attend CPS, which gives him a connection to the community I am not sure the Council has ever had in a City Manager. He has lived in Cambridge for more than 15 years as a renter and a homeowner, with a demonstrated love for this city. Of those in the community who weighed in on this choice, many of whom had never emailed the council before, it was striking to me that there was widespread grassroots support for Yi-An Huang. From families who knew him through his children and activities in school, from people who worked with him at BMC, from people who heard his thoughtful answers at the forums. The excitement about his fresh perspective and his deep commitment to good governance, inclusion and accountability was palpable.
He showed his strong communication skills, which is something we have all noted is needed. As a leader in healthcare during COVID, he demonstrated that he has strong problem solving skills and experience doing things in a timely way; for example, the way he helped BMC to take a three-year plan for telehealth and implement it in 14 days was frankly amazing. His experience outside municipal administration is an asset, since he will more likely ask good questions about why we do things a certain way, to bring needed outside perspective. At the same time, we have strong leaders in the city who know municipal government – so there will be a great team.
His experience managing complex budgets is a huge asset – he talked about the budget, our bond rating, and the place of the budget in Council goals in a way that demonstrated solid understanding of finances which the leadership profile required, and that rose above every other candidate. For my own due diligence, as my colleagues have noted they did as well, I reached out to many people. To people in the health care community, to the community in Boston and Cambridge — residents in different parts of the city, including residents living in public housing. From all those conversations, it was clear that he knows how to unify people and how to manage, including difficult people like all of us. He also does not have any specific agenda for the role other than working to meet the goals of the city.
He also did his homework, which showed in his answers. That is a good sign, since this job requires a lot of work. His understanding of the various issues facing us was impressive. He demonstrated that he knows that management of a complex organization requires balancing various constituencies and issues. He showed us how he thinks about that challenge. Additionally, his track record shows that he knows how to deal with challenging issues, including identifying trade-offs and making decisions in a timely manner.
As for character, he is generous and kind and empathetic – key qualities for a leadership role. That quality was exemplified by when he housed three Afghan refugees — which was not disclosed by him, but people who knew him. The fact that the search committee did not know speaks volumes – his actions were done from the heart. His approach to the role would be with “humility” and “listening and learning.” His leadership style emphasizes creating a plan of action, basing all plans on values and goals, and incorporating feedback. All of which solidified my support for him.
From the beginning I stated that we need a leader and a manager. Our leadership profile basically describes a miracle worker. We have four candidates all qualified for the job with an impressive range of experience and skills and lived experience. After all the intensity of the last few months, in my considered opinion, the best person to lead this incredible city into the future is Yi-An Huang.