SOMERVILLE – After conducting a thorough vetting process, Mayor-elect Katjana Ballantyne has announced today two key executive staff selections, new administrative support, and a team of three Senior Transition Advisors.
Nikki Spencer, M.S.W., M.P.H., a Somerville resident, has been named the incoming Chief of Staff. Spencer brings more than 10 years of experience in operational management, public health, and community engagement. Her project leadership and strategic planning experience span nonprofit, governmental, and academic settings where she has consistently championed equity initiatives. As a public health social worker, she has spent the last 18 months combating COVID-19 and supporting those most impacted across the state, including in Somerville. Most recently, she served as the Tactics and Operations Manager for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Vaccine Equity Initiative. She holds both a Master of Social Work and a Master of Public Health from Washington University in St. Louis.
Aneesh Sahni will oversee the policy agenda for the Ballantyne administration as the Director of Intergovernmental Relations. Sahni most recently served as the Legislative Director for State Senator Brendan Crighton, 3rd Essex District, where, among other initiatives, he worked on the eviction and foreclosure moratorium, public transit access improvements, and educational equity. A former public school teacher, Sahni has also worked for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and served as a Policy Fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is active in efforts to support leaders of color and improve racial equity in government and holds a B.A. from Princeton University in Public and International Affairs.
Finally, Luz Lopez is joining the Mayor’s Office as an Executive Administrative Assistant. Lopez comes to the office having spent the last three years as a Senior Clerk at the East Somerville Community School. She is fluent in Spanish and enjoys working to meet the needs of constituents from around Somerville.
Mayor-elect Ballantyne established a rigorous hiring process with the support of veteran recruiters Elaine Varelas (Managing Partner, Keystone Partners) and Cynthia Maltbie (retired former Chief of Human Resources, Partners In Health & Fidelity Investments) to identify new hires, while a systematic assessment of internal capacity was conducted with the support of seasoned policy advisor and recent Boston cabinet member Marty Martinez (former Chief of Health and Human Services, City of Boston) and Katie Brilliantes, a Somerville resident and policy advisor who is the Director of the Mayor-elect’s Citizen Advisory Committee.
“My goal is to get to work on day one, to address the primary concerns of the people of Somerville: affordability, the environment, transportation, mobility, equity, education, health, COVID-19 safety and recovery, and so much more,” said Mayor-elect Ballantyne. “The list of critical issues is long, and I intend to address them with the most qualified staff, the most effective structures, and always an ear to the ground to hear the many voices in our community so we can deliver the progress and quality services that Somerville demands.”
To aid a smooth transition, three current staff have also been tapped to serve as Senior Transition Advisors in addition to performing their usual roles. They include Austin Faison, the current Somerville ARPA Director and most recently the Town Manager of Winthrop; Tim Snyder, the current COVID-19 Deputy Incident Commander and Senior COVID Policy Advisor, and a former Director of Intergovernmental Relations for Mayor Curtatone; and Denise Taylor, the current Director of Communications and Community Engagement also serving as the Public Information Officer for the pandemic emergency response. Faison and Snyder, both supporting the emergency response and recovery in time-limited positions, will advise the transition with Taylor for approximately six months. Taylor will then stay on with the administration in her current role while also assuming the ongoing role of Senior Policy Advisor to Mayor-elect Ballantyne.
Together, the Ballantyne administration’s new executive staff combine extensive policy skills with operational experience and bring a substantial commitment to and proven successes in advancing equity. The new staff speaks four languages fluently including English, Spanish, Hindi, and German.
Ballantyne will be sworn in as Mayor at virtual Inaugural Ceremonies on Monday, January 3, 2022.