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Mayor Wu Announces Several Cabinet Reappointments

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December 29, 2021


Several cabinet reappointments announced, shaping new administration with proven leaders focused on equity, civic engagement, and embracing Boston’s possibility.

Mayor Michelle Wu today announced several cabinet reappointments, shaping her new administration with proven leaders who are focused on equity, civic engagement and embracing Boston’s possibility.

Celina Barrios-Millner, previously Chief of Equity & Inclusion, will join the Mayor’s Office as Senior Advisor to the Mayor, Shumeane Benford will continue as Chief of Emergency Management (OEM), Kara Elliott-Ortega as Chief of Arts & Culture, Dion Irish as Chief of Operations, Justin Sterritt as Chief of Administration & Finance, and Rev. Mariama White-Hammond as Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space.

“I’m grateful for the continued leadership and service of these dedicated city officials,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “In this critical moment, their knowledge and passion for connecting our communities will guide our actions to make Boston a city for everyone.”

Celina Barrios-Millner, an immigrant from Venezuela, is a proven public sector strategist with two decades of experience serving the people of Boston by building systems and designing policies to ensure equity across major aspects of civic life. Since joining the City of Boston in 2014, Barrios-Millner has led Immigrant Integration initiatives, built the City’s first Supplier Diversity program, and most recently worked to ensure an equitable distribution of ARPA and other stimulus funds as Chief of Equity and Inclusion. 

“I am honored by the opportunity to work closely with Mayor Wu and her administration to serve the people of Boston,” said Celina Barrios-Millner. “I am looking forward to working with such a talented and visionary team to ensure we are responsive to the real challenges we face day to day while building systems that work for all Bostonians.”

Shumeane L. Benford is a veteran Boston Police Officer and proven reform-minded public safety leader with over 25 years of experience. Benford is a collaborator who has lent his experience and voice in the city's discussion around police reform implementation. In addition to enhancing OEM's service capacity, Benford most recently has led efforts to transform the Boston Housing Police into a 21st century service oriented department that centers its work around engagement, community partnership, alternative responses, transparency and accountability. Benford is a lifelong Boston resident, and received his Masters Degree from Suffolk University, and his BA from Curry College. He is an adjunct professor at Roxbury Community College, and lives in Dorchester with his family.

“It is truly an honor to be reappointed as the Chief of Emergency Management,” said Shumeane Benford. “I am truly grateful for the opportunity to continue the important work of keeping our city safe and prepared under Mayor Wu's leadership. I welcome the challenge of meeting the moment and being a productive contributor in delivering on Mayor Wu's bold vision for transformative city services that are more connected, inclusive and equitable for all of Boston's residents.”

Kara Elliott-Ortega has worked in the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture for six years, serving as Chief of Arts and Culture for the past three years. In that role, Kara led cultural space development and placekeeping efforts, the expansion of grants and services to Boston-based creative workers and cultural organizations, and created new programs to support public art and cultural activations across the City. Kara previously worked for the City as the Director of Policy and Planning for the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture. Kara is an urban planner and cultural organizer focusing on the role of arts and creativity in community building and government. She holds a Master in City Planning from MIT and is a graduate of the University of Chicago. Kara is a resident of Roxbury and loves playing music and going to local shows.  

“I am honored to continue to serve Boston and its creative communities under the leadership of Mayor Wu,” said Kara Elliott-Ortega. “As a lifelong advocate for artists and creative work, I am excited to be part of this administration that prioritizes inclusion and understands the necessary role that culture plays in all aspects of civic life.”

Dion Irish has served the city of Boston for more than 26 years in various leadership positions. As Chief of Operations, he oversees the Inspectional Services, Public Facilities and Property Management Departments; and coordinates multi-agency operational initiatives. He is a dedicated and passionate public servant who held leadership positions in the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) for over a decade, including serving as Commissioner 2019 to 2021.  At ISD, he established nationally recognized policies and programs such as Breathe Easy At Home (BEAH), Rental Property Registration & Inspection, and the statewide comprehensive certification training for housing inspectors (MPHIT).  Previously, Irish was appointed Commissioner of the Boston Election Department in 2015 and was appointed to lead Boston’s Office of Civil Rights in 2012. He is a graduate of Dorchester High School; he earned a Bachelor degree in Political Science from Boston University, a Master of Urban Affairs from Boston University, and a Master of Public Administration Degree from Suffolk University.

“I'm both honored and excited to be part of Mayor Wu’s historic administration,” said Dion Irish. “As someone who was raised in this city, who attended our public schools and whose career has been dedicated to serving my fellow residents, I’m familiar with our challenges and opportunities. I’m eager to join Mayor Wu, and my colleagues, in executing on a bold agenda for Boston, while delivering on critical basic services.”

As CFO, Justin Sterritt is responsible for all aspects of financial management for the City of Boston. In this role, he will continue the sound fiscal stewardship of the City’s human and financial resources to support the long term growth and stability of the city. Sterritt previously served as Director of the Office of Budget Management for the City. Sterritt has also led key strategic efforts on behalf of the City including increasing engagement and equity in the annual budget process, managing state funding dynamics including efforts to increase state funding support and supporting the City’s response and recovery to the COVID-19 pandemic during a rapidly changing and evolving economic climate. Prior to joining the City of Boston, Sterritt spent over six years in various finance and policy roles for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 

"It's the honor of a lifetime to serve as Chief Financial Officer and Collector-Treasurer for the City of Boston, and I'm thrilled to continue on in this role under Mayor Wu's administration " said Justin Sterritt. "The A&F team of professionals for the City is the envy of any major City in the country and I am proud to build on the City's track record of fiscal responsibility while helping to implement an innovative and forward looking agenda for Mayor Wu."

Rev. Mariama White-Hammond was appointed as Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space in April 2021. As Chief, Rev. White-Hammond oversees policy and programs on energy, climate change, sustainability, historic preservation and open space. Over the course of her time with the City, she has supported the amendment of the Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) to set carbon targets for existing large buildings. Rev. White-Hammond has also convened a city-led youth green jobs program. Rev. White-Hammond has extensive background in embedding equity and environmental justice into Boston’s communities. Rev. Mariama is the founding pastor of New Roots AME Church in Dorchester. She has received numerous awards, including the Barr Fellowship, the Celtics Heroes Among Us, The Roxbury Founders Day Award and the Boston NAACP Image award. She was selected as one of the Grist 50 Fixers for 2019 and Sojourners 11 Women Shaping the Church. Rev. White-Hammond was born and raised in Boston and began her community engagement in high school when she worked as a Peer Health Educator. She was particularly shaped by her involvement in Project HIP-HOP (Highways Into the Past - History, Organizing and Power), a youth organization focused on teaching the history of the Civil Rights Movement and engaging a new generation of young people in activism. After college, she became the Executive Director of Project HIP-HOP, where she served for 13 years. In 2017, she graduated with her Master of Divinity at the Boston University School of Theology and was ordained an elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 2018, she founded New Roots AME Church.

“I want to thank Mayor Wu for her visionary leadership in tackling the structural changes so Boston’s young people have a healthy and sustainable planet to call home,” said Reverend Mariama White-Hammond. “Right now, we have the opportunity and obligation to create a city founded on equitable access to jobs, transportation, and open space through a city-level Green New Deal. I am grateful and enthusiastic to support Mayor Wu in this work."

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