More than a year ago, City Councilor Ayanna Pressley and her husband Conan Harris tied the knot. Now they are linked together by more than marriage: They are both working at City Hall, a floor away from each other. Harris has been hired to serve in Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office as deputy director of public safety initiatives, the mayor’s press office said.
Harris began his $85,000-a-year job May 11 and is working closely with the initiative’s director, Daniel Mulhern. Mulhern and his staff are charged with coordinating a citywide approach to tackling complex issues causing and perpetuating crime.
“I’m so proud of the career Conan has built serving the community he grew up in on issues of youth development, violence prevention, gang intervention, and re-entry,” Pressley, a much celebrated at-large city councilor, said in a statement.
Pressley’s chief of staff Jessica Taubner said the Dorchester councilor had no involvement in her husband’s hiring at City Hall.
“She had zero involvement in any point of it,’’ Taubner said. “Nothing.”
Taubner said the hiring was done directly through the mayor’s administration and initiated solely by Harris. She said Harris has substantial expertise in youth development, violence prevention, and gang prevention to qualify for the job.
“Look at his experience,’’ Taubner said.
Prior to coming to City Hall, Harris worked for The Boston Foundation’s StreetSafe Boston program from June 2009 through January 2015 and left there on great terms, according to his resume and city officials.
StreetSafe workers engage gang members and other at-risk youth and steer them toward education, job training, and other resources. In December, the program merged with a similar effort in the city.
Harris began at StreetSafe as a program coordinator, and his duties included providing assistance to at-risk individuals and finding nonviolent solutions for them. He advanced to becoming a manager in 2011, supervising 20 street workers targeting 20 street gangs, his resume shows.
Walsh, who has known Harris from his work at StreetSafe, hailed Harris’s public safety and security experience, particularly his focus on reaching and engaging youths.
“He is an excellent addition to the Office of Public Safety Initiatives and I look forward to having his insight on how to bring positive change to our neighborhoods,’’ Walsh said.
Harris was also the transitional employment supervisor for the employment organization, Youth Options Unlimited, formerly known as Youth Opportunity Boston.
Harris, who earned a sociology degree from Boston University, brings a history of antiviolence advocacy along with his own street cred. In previous news accounts he said he had been imprisoned for 10 years for drug trafficking, and that while incarcerated, he realized he could make a difference in neighborhoods like the one he grew up in.
A biography provided by the city said Harris overcame many challenges prevalent in the inner-city that drives his dedication and determination to improve urban communities.
“Being raised by a single mother and a family of strong women helped shape his values,’’ his biography said. “He holds them all near and dear, especially his wife Ayanna and precious pride and joy, daughter Cora.”
Originally published by The Boston Globe