Sunday, July 14, 2024

Public Works head Owen O’Riordan, seen in 2016, has been acting city manager and is now named as acting deputy city manager. (Photo: Ceilidh Yurenka)

After stepping down Tuesday from filling in as city manager after the retirement of Louis A. DePasquale, Public Works head Owen O’Riordan has been asked three days later to come back as acting deputy city manager in a message to staff by new city manager Yi-an Huang.

The Friday message also clarified Huang’s view of the role for when a permanent deputy city manager is found, filling a gap left since the retirement of Lisa Peterson in January 2021 for what were understood to be health reasons.

“I view the role as the chief operating officer for the city, responsible for managing major day-to-day operations, overseeing core infrastructure and playing a key leadership role for the city overall,” said Huang, who came to lead City Hall after serving as an executive director at the nonprofit Boston Medical Center.

The memo designates the departments of Public Works; Water; Electrical; and Traffic, Parking and Transportation as responsibilities of the deputy city manager.

“I also view this as a role that is too important to keep vacant, and I’m pleased to name Owen O’Riordan as acting deputy city manager,” Huang said. “Owen has performed wonderfully as the acting city manager over the summer and for many years as the commissioner of Public Works. I’m grateful for his experience and leadership, and I’m excited to work with him in this new role.”

The city is also advertising for a chief of staff for Huang – a title new to City Hall that will pay $160,000 to $200,000 annually, according to a July 26 job posting. A second job listing for a chief of strategy and implementation was posted the same day and for the same amount.

A request was sent to the City Manager’s Office on Wednesday to hear the thinking behind the creation of the chief of staff role and how it intersected with filling the deputy city manager vacancy; though city spokesperson Lee Gianetti shared the memo announcing O’Riordan’s new appointment, nothing specific was said about the chief of staff position.

Huang was appointed by the council on June 6 to replace Louis A. DePasquale, who retired from the City Manager’s Office on July 5 after six years in office – and a total 47 years in City Hall. Huang is the first city manager since the 1980s who hasn’t been a Cambridge City Hall insider.

There have been several recent retirements among longtime staffers, including from the City Manager’s Office: Over the summer, Maryellen Carvello retired as manager for planning and operations after 39 years in City Hall, for which she earned more than $104,325 annually.

City councillor Patty Nolan, a co-chair of the Finance Committee, said Friday that there was good in the new city manager’s job postings.

“I’m excited to have someone who is thinking about reconfiguring the office to be responsive to the needs of the city. This is exactly why we hired him,” Nolan said.

Huang spent July and August meeting with city leaders and staff, councillors and members of the public in ramping up to take office. “This is a big transition for the city, and I wanted to share how I approach change,” he said in the Friday memo. “I want to recognize what’s unique about our city and organization. We should always be open to new ideas, but also ensure that they are adapted to fit our context.”

O’Riordan has had a September vacation to Ireland planned since at least mid-July, and on Wednesday – before the announcement he was being named as acting deputy city manager – he said that vacation was still on the books. The nine-day trip is expected to have him back in his expanded role by the end of the month.

“I have three sisters who are spread around the world. I haven’t been able to get together with them over the last couple of years, and so it’s really important to me that I get that opportunity in the fall,” O’Riordan said in July. “And so I certainly will take it if time allows.”