Daniel Koh, chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, said leaving New York City to return to Boston was an easy decision. Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro
Metro sat down with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh's 29-year-old chief of staff, Daniel Arrigg Koh. The fresh-faced Andover native is tackling his new title with the same tenacity he brought to the table as general manager of HuffPost Live, and he has big ambitions for Boston's future.
What’s it been like for you to return to Boston after leaving HuffPost Live in New York?
Living in New York was an interesting experience, but I’m a Bostonian at heart, so I constantly felt like I was missing home. ... I really think that Boston is the place to be. The city has such an exciting energy now. There is such an opportunity for growth from a business perspective, from a cultural perspective and from a nightlife perspective. This is where so many young people go to school, and this is an opportunity for us to make Boston that much more of an attractive place for them to stay after they graduate. For me, I saw going from New York back to Boston as an upgrade, and I love it. I'm so thrilled to be back, and to help make a difference.
How did you feel being named to the '30 Under 30' list by Forbes magazine?
That was a tremendous honor. I was taken aback. I didn’t really know it was coming. Arianna [Huffington] was on the selection committee. [laughs] I don’t know if that helped me at all. It certainly didn’t hurt. The Forbes [announcement] happened the day of Walsh’s inauguration. So that was kind of a crazy day for me, but it was a good day.
Will having somebody your age working behind the scenes help propel the administration toward building a more youth-oriented city?
I think so, certainly. I’m not too far away from college. I went to school in Cambridge. Obviously having an opportunity to get a job in Boston is probably the No. 1 reason someone is able to stay. So we need to do a lot of work with the universities and high schools to make sure there are a lot of great jobs here. Having said that, there are also a lot of things we can do to make Boston a lot more fun.
What is a typical day for you and Mayor Walsh?
We have a standing 7:30 a.m. phone call. I usually wake up around 6 a.m., go work out for a little bit, read the newspapers and go through my emails. I make sure that by the time I’m talking to Mayor Walsh, I've read up on the day. I usually put together a list of things I need to talk to him about. We talk through that, then he goes on his rounds. I check in with him, I’d say, three or four times during the day.
What is the dynamic like between you two?
He's a really fun guy to work for. He really does joke around and keeps it light, but he's serious when he needs to be serious. At this point, we've figured out each other's sense of humor. He makes me feel like a valued person to him and really listens to the advice I give him, which is always a nice thing.
Would you ever consider a run for office?
[Laughs] That’s always the question, right? I love public service. I love giving back. There is nothing like the public sector. ... I've seen firsthand how politicians have been able to do good, and I know I'm definitely drawn by that. Having said that, I don’t know what I'd do in that role. Certainly I've had great mentors who have proven to me that if I decided to pursue that field, it would be a noble endeavor. But that’s far away right now. … I have a lot to prove before I get to that point.
What’s your guilty pleasure when it comes to food in Boston?
The Tip Tap Room: I went there for first time recently and had a burger. I’m training for a marathon, so I shouldn't have a burger, but I destroyed that.
Why do you use your middle name?
[Arrigg] is my mother’s maiden name. It's Lebanese. It's a way to honor my mom, and it's really important to me. She was just as much of a factor in raising me as my dad. My brother and sister both have Arrigg as their middle name as well.
Growing up, what influences helped shape the person you are today?
I was raised by five or six very strong women, and it was an invaluable experience for me. My grandmother and her three sisters lived together in a house about 10 minutes from mine. Just to say they’re great-aunts doesn’t do justice to the influence they had on my life. I feel very very grateful that all of my mom's family is in the Andover area where I grew up. I was just fortunate to have many mentors who I learned a lot from, and they just happen to be my family.
The lowdown on Dan Arrigg Koh
He grew up in Andover, now lives in the West End and often takes the T.
He just ran the Boston Marathon.
He previously served as chief of staff to Arianna Huffington and general manager to HuffPost Live.
Before his media career, he served as adviser to former Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.
He earned a bachelor of arts degree in government from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
In college, he worked as an intern for then Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.