Dan Koh ’03 Reflects on Passion For Government and Politics as Chief of Staff

Every morning, Chief of Staff Dan Koh ’03 eats an egg white – and drinks a Diet Coke – for breakfast, reading over digests of the day’s news for Boston. At 6:45 a.m., Koh and Marty Walsh, Mayor of Boston, have a standing call where they offer their insights to the news, reactions and responses, and talk logistically about the day ahead. By 8:30 a.m., Koh is at City Hall to meet with the mayor’s administration about the day’s priorities, according to “”

Shuffling from meeting to meeting – whose topics can cover education, housing or public safety, among a whole host of other city-related nuances – Koh is responsible for talking to locals and administrators in Boston and advising Walsh on all political matters. Each day in the office proves to be hectic for Koh, but also incredibly rewarding.

“I think what I enjoy most is that there are so many different things that are relevant to the work I do. There’s no specific subject matter in a given day,” said Koh. “It’s our responsibility to not only understand what is going on in each of those but also help advise the mayor on decisions he’s going to make regarding Boston and those areas. So [my job] forces me to really understand a number of different things.”

From 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., Koh meets in City Hall with the chief of policy, the chief legal counsel, the chief of operations and the C.F.O., where they discuss the day’s agenda.

While he has found his passion in government and politics, the future was not always clear-cut for Koh. In an interview with The Phillipian, Koh reflected on how he, like many Andover students, was once unsure about what he wanted to do with his career.

“A lot of times – especially when I was at Andover, I was kind of worried about the one thing I need to do in high school or college for my career, and I think one of the things I’ve learned is that you can do a lot of different things that lead you to opportunities that you wouldn’t expect,” said Koh.

Koh found that the diversity he experienced at Andover helped shape the way he thinks in his career and allowed for his cultivation of networking skills after graduation.

“From day one [at] Andover, you not only feel like you’re among top faculty, but [you feel like] you’re also among kids who have a huge diversity of backgrounds from all over the world,” said Koh.

“[Alums] not only have a great network, so when you go to different places you can see people from Andover that you know, but it gives you a different perspective on life that you wouldn’t normally have,” said Koh.

In the summer of his Upper Year at Andover, Koh worked at the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s Boston office and was immersed in all aspects of the political business. There, he learned basic services, such as writing letters and answering phone calls. After graduating from Harvard College in 2007 with a Bachelor’s Degree in government, Koh completed a one-year fellowship with the late Boston Mayor Tom Menino, and then worked at “The Huffington Post” for two years before returning to Boston to serve as Walsh’s Chief of Staff.

“[Working in public service] forces me to really understand a number of different things, and it forces me to be really up on the news everyday. No matter what job you have, I think it’s helpful to really be up on the news, so this is a great opportunity to do that while doing it for a full-time living,” he said.
Koh credits the teachers he met at Andover for helping prepare him to take on the daunting and fast-paced job of Chief of Staff. One of those relationships was an unlikely connection to Leon Modeste, Director of Athletics, on a community service trip to South Carolina, and was inspired by Modeste’s leadership as a football coach.

“Consistently upbeat, [Koh] has always radiated a positive energy that makes others want to follow in his lead. While here, [Koh] earned the respect of both faculty and students because of his respect for all,” said Modeste in an interview with The Phillipian.
Seth Bardo, Instructor in English and a teacher to Koh in his Junior year, said, “[Koh]’s exceptional qualities were instilled by his family, his dedicated parents and his exemplary siblings. He came to Andover as a young boy who, unlike most of his adolescent peers, already possessed a mature moral compass, one that has continued to guide him.”