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Q&A with New City Manager Yi-An Huang

Monday, September 12, 2022

Yi-An Huang was sworn in as Cambridge City Manager on September 6, 2022. The Manager is appointed by the Cambridge City Council and serves as the the City's Chief Executive Officer.

Learn a little more about City Manager Huang through our Question and Answer interview:

What were some things that most interested you about the position of Cambridge City Manager?
I was really excited about the opportunity to serve this city that I love. I have three children in Cambridge Public Schools and this will be the community that shapes them as they grow up. I hope that they will be inspired by what’s possible, and to see our diverse community come together to build a better city for everyone. We are a city with such energy, diversity, and ambition – it’s an amazing honor to be in this position!

What are some of the things you enjoy about living and raising a family in Cambridge?
I grew up in the Boston area, but Cambridge has been my home since I left for college. My partner and I met at school and had our first date at the Au Bon Pain in Harvard Square. I proposed on the Weeks Bridge, and we were married in Memorial Church. Our children were born in the city and I’ve spent many beautiful mornings and afternoons in our amazing parks and playgrounds. I especially love Paine Playground, which is a hidden gem north of Broadway. And I’ve loved this community – the passion of so many people who want to make a difference in the world. There is such a rich civic and community landscape, and I’m thrilled to be able to be a part of it.

What do you enjoy in your spare time?
We have three children and a dog, and so there isn’t a lot of spare time! In this phase of life, my hobbies have become very practical! I love cooking, and it’s gotten even more fun with kids. There are few things more rewarding than a smiling kid saying that you’ve cooked their new favorite dish. They’re now getting old enough to help. We started with scrambled eggs and are now moving on to pancakes, so I’m hoping that I’ll soon have assistant chefs in the kitchen!

What do you hope to accomplish in your first few months as City Manager?
I know it’s going to be a busy fall! I hope to work hard to build a strong working relationship with the City Council and also the community. There are so many issues that we want to work on, and I’m excited to work with our fantastic City staff to start getting things done. But I know that a big part will be having a foundation of understanding and trust. I’m especially hoping to reach out more to people who don’t traditionally come to City Hall and to include more voices in the conversation as we make important decisions.

What do you see as some of the greatest challenges and opportunities facing Cambridge?
Running a city is really hard! We are facing deep challenges – housing, climate change, transportation, and building a more equitable and just society. How do we rise to the moment with ambitious goals, urgent action, and strong execution? And how do we do this in a way where we are moving forward together as a community, rather than being pulled apart? I think that’s the greatest challenge and opportunity we are facing.

How do you think your prior work experiences will inform your work as the Cambridge City Manager?
I loved the nine years I spent at Boston Medical Center, and one of the amazing parts of the culture was a relentless focus on running a better organization to accomplish our mission. I learned how much is under the hood of a complex operation and how to build a culture of learning, accountability, and continuous improvement. There’s a lot of great work happening already, and I hope to both support that good work and find new opportunities for delivering results for all of our residents.

You’ve been meeting with City leaders prior to starting your new position. How has that gone?
I’ve been so grateful for the summer, and the opportunity to start building relationships, especially when we are all in a better mood! It would have been so much harder to start in the middle of winter! I’ve spent a lot of time listening and learning with City leaders, the City Council, and folks in the community who have reached out. It’s been really energizing, and I’ve seen some of the challenges that we are currently facing, but also how much our deeper values and goals are aligned. I hope to build on that and I’m looking forward to even more conversations since I know there are so many people I haven’t been able to meet with yet.

Tell us about your leadership approach and how you envision interacting with the community?
The City works for the people and with direction from the City Council. My hope would be that it feels like the City, our community, and the Council are on the same team, tackling the serious challenges that we are facing together. That doesn’t mean that we will always agree, but it should feel like we are in the same boat, working to find consensus, and ultimately rowing together in the same direction. I hope to welcome feedback, input, and guidance from the community – I know that I’ll make mistakes, and my approach has always been to be honest and transparent, learn, and try to improve.

Anything else you would like to add?

I am really excited to serve this city that I love. We are a city with such energy, diversity, and ambition - it's an amazing honor to be in this position!"

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