Chief of Personnel & Labor Relations, City of Boston
As a member of Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s Cabinet, John Dunlap oversees all aspects of the City of Boston’s Labor Relations, Human Resources and Retirement functions. John and his team negotiate and administer contracts with seventeen unions representing twenty-four bargaining units. A talented, innovative negotiator, John collaborated with a highly-motivated coalition of municipal unions to find fresh ways to tackle complex healthcare cost issues. The result was a creative break-through agreement that delivered both good employee healthcare and a whopping $70 million savings for the City. Prior to Boston, John was the Town of Brookline’s Director of Human Resources. He joined Arlington’s Board of Selectman as an Administrator in 1994, and was named Director of Personnel in 1997. John received his BA from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in 1990, and in 1994, he earned a Master in Public Administration from Northeastern University.
John Dunlap Acceptance Speech Cushing-Gavin Award Dinner December 7, 2012
Good evening Bishop Dooher, Senator-Elect Warren, my fellow awardees, distinguished co-chairs and head table guests and good evening to all of you.
I am truly honored to receive the Cushing Gavin award for a Management Representative and I sincerely thank all of the members of the selection committee and the entire Labor Guild.
Because this award means so much to me I am particularly excited to be joined by members of my family and a number of my nearest and dearest friends. Specifically, I would like to acknowledge my parents, James and Florence Dunlap from Arlington and my sister Jane Morrissey, my brother-in-law Mike Morrissey and my wonderful nieces Emma and Hannah who are joining us this evening from Glens Falls, New York.
My family and friends have suffered through countless stories about labor negotiations. This was truly a labor of love because no one has ever accused me of cutting to the chase too quickly when telling a story. However, being the wonderful family and friends that they are they always lent an ear and that has been a constant source of support and encouragement.
I have been very fortunate that throughout my career some truly outstanding public servants were willing to take a chance on me and give me an opportunity to work in the field of human resources and labor relations. These individuals offered their time, knowledge and patience to help me develop as a professional and person.
Foremost among them is Mayor Tom Menino. Mayor Menino has taught me that no matter what the issue of the day happens to be – public servants must always remain focused on the practical impact that our decisions have for the quality of life of the citizens of Boston. I look forward to his return to the official City Hall, and I look forward to continuing to serve in the Menino Administration.
I have had other remarkable mentors to whom I am very grateful including:
- Richard Kelliher, the retired Town Administrator of Brookline
- Donald Marquis, the retired Town Manager of Arlington
- Nancy Galkowski, the former Deputy Town Manager of Arlington
In my present job in Boston I have the privilege to work with a team of people that set the highest standard for public administration. Collectively, we challenge one another to find the most effective, fair-minded and innovative approaches to the issues that confront the City. It has been my privilege to work with:
- Paul Curran, the City’s Director of Labor Relations;
- Meredith Weenick, the City’s Chief Finance Officer; and,
- Many other exceptional public employees and friends who are too numerous to name.
In order to succeed in the field of labor relations you must have strong relationships with labor representatives. I have had the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented and committed union leaders and representatives. I could never mention all of these individuals but I would like to identify two (2) specifically:
- Steve Dolan was a long time business agent for AFSCME Council 93. He came up through the Arlington Public Works Department and eventually became one of AFSCME’s leading business agents. Steve came to every disciplinary hearing insisting that the employee in question not only be cleared of any wrong doing but also promoted and awarded a commendation. (Laughter) Steve taught me that strong disagreements and powerful advocacy could simultaneously exist with good humor and good will between the parties. Steve treated everyone in a manner that made you want to resolve issues together. I had the pleasure of working with him in both Arlington and Brookline. Sadly, Steve passed a few years ago now, but I consider it a great privilege to have known him.
- Jennifer Springer is the General Counsel and Director of Field Services for SEIU 888. We have sat across the table from one another on major negotiations. Even in the toughest negotiations, Jen always challenges me to keep trying to find a resolution. In 2011, the City was engaged in a very high stakes and high profile negotiation with a coalition of all of the City employee unions over health insurance benefits. Late in the process we hit a major wall over the relationship of the potential agreement to pending state legislation.
Absent any idea what to do, I did what comes naturally to me. I went to JP Licks for an ice cream. There I met with Jen and the Fire Union President. The three of us spoke very candidly about the differing needs within our own bargaining teams. Absent such a candid conversation, each party would have assigned incorrect motives to the other party and the impasse would have remained unresolved. Ultimately, we reached a comprehensive four year agreement. For the record, the ice cream was well under the State Ethics Commission’s $50 gift restriction (Laughter).
Despite all the hard negotiations, tough issues, bumps, bruises and intermittent blow outs – I am very proud to be able to call Jen – and many other municipal labor leaders – my friend.
In preparation of this evening I read the Labor Guild’s Charter. The mission statement reads, “The Guild promotes justice and good order in area workplaces by inspiring, motivating, and helping men and women to act with conscience, and know-how, and courage in labor-management relations.” I think that mission statement is as relevant today as the day the Guild was founded– I have decided to print it out and tape to the cement wall next to my desk at City Hall. I plan on reading it and re-reading as we work together to face the many challenges that lay ahead.
Again, thank you to the Labor Guild for this honor and thank you all for being here this evening.