By Ling-Mei Wong
Michelle Wu, Boston’s first Chinese-American city councilor, has been hard at work since her inauguration Jan. 6. The energetic 29-year-old has filed an open data ordinance for greater transparency, supported nondiscrimination against transgender city employees and worked to streamline permits for small businesses.
“Two years will go by very fast,” Wu said of her council term. “Every day counts and we try to get as much done as we can.”
The daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, Wu grew up in Chicago. She came to Boston for her undergraduate studies at Harvard and spent her weekends in Chinatown teaching citizenship classes at the Asian American Civic Association. In that time, Wu became no stranger to Boston’s Chinatown.
“When it’s nice out, I like to just sit in the park by the Chinatown Gate,” Wu said. “Lately, we’ve spending a lot of time at Tea Do to enjoy the many bubble tea options. And we almost always stop by the restaurants and bakeries.”
When her mother fell ill in 2007, Wu left a job in consulting to open a tea shop in Chicago. As she learned firsthand about city bureaucracy, she decided to attend Harvard Law School and moved her family back to Boston. Wu has made good on her commitment to reducing red tape for local businesses.
“We’ve been reaching out to small business owners to communicate with them,” Wu said. “I’ve been happy to give people a voice.”
Wu worked for Mayor Thomas Menino as a policy fellow and created a restaurant road map, spelling out permit applications and instructions online. She met her mentor Sen. Elizabeth Warren at Harvard, worked on Warren’s campaign and was inspired to run for public office herself.
“I love it,” Wu said. “I want to encourage young people in the Asian American community to run for office and work in government.”
Wu lives in the South End with her husband Conor and younger sisters Sherelle and Victoria. She planned to celebrate Mother’s Day in west Roxbury with her mom.
“She’s one of the hardest workers I know,” Wu said. “Every day I put into action everything she taught us growing up.”
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