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Massó named Boston’s Human Services chief

Cabinet oversees libraries, youth centers, elder services

Saraya Wintersmith, GBH News
Massó named Boston’s Human Services chief
José Massó PHOTO: CITY OF BOSTON

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu on Thursday appointed José F. Massó, a nonprofit leader and community organizer, as the city’s new chief of Human Services.

The cabinet encompasses numerous departments focused on equity and serving diverse communities, including aging residents, people with disabilities and veterans. The cabinet also oversees the Boston Public Library and the Boston Centers for Youth and Families. According to the mayor’s office, the Human Services post is one of the largest oversight roles among cabinet chief positions.

Massó’s appointment comes as Wu continues to build her cabinet 150 days into her tenure, with searches ongoing for a Boston Public Schools superintendent and a Boston Police commissioner. Monday, Wu announced former HUD administrator Arthur Jemison as chief of planning, a newly created position to oversee and head reforms within the city’s planning and development agency.

“José is bringing a lifelong commitment to Boston in this role,” Wu said, announcing his appointment in front of the Roslindale Boston Center for Youth and Families. “He is bringing decades of experience as a nonprofit leader and community organizer, most recently as co-executive director of United South End Settlements.”

Massó pointed to his time growing up in the city, having formative experiences with the kinds of organizations he will now oversee.

“If you would’ve told me 25 years ago when I was a lifeguard right up the street at the Flaherty pool that I would be in this position today, I wouldn’t have believed you,” he said. “I would ride my bike to work and the only thing that would be on my mind was what was ahead of me, whether that was teaching swim lessons or coaching the swim team — but that was it. I couldn’t see too far into the future, but I knew I loved the work.”

Prior to co-leading United South End Settlements, Massó was the YMCA of Greater Boston’s executive director of child development and food insecurity. He also held several positions within the Boston Public Health Commission, including managing a citywide mayoral initiative to promote healthy eating and exercise, according to a press release.

The role Massó now assumes has gone without a permanent appointment since December, when Marty Martinez, chief of what was then Health and Human Services, transitioned into an advisory role.

The mayor made the decision to separate the explicit health aspects of the job, assigning them to the Boston Public Health Commission’s executive director, Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, who now also sits within the mayor’s cabinet.

Saraya Wintersmith covers Boston City Hall for GBH News.