Farewell, Tom: Boston Mayor Thomas Menino reflects on his past, looks to the future
After a 20-year tenure, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino on Monday officially bids farewell, opening up the job to incoming Mayor Marty Walsh. To mark the monumental occasion, Metro spoke with Menino about the highs and lows of the job, as well as the challenges that lay ahead for Boston.
Metro: What made you decide not to run for another term?
Menino: One of the most difficult decision’s I’ve ever made was not to run. I’ve been mayor for 20 years, so I thought it was time for the city to have different leadership. I thought I brought the city to a good financial shape, a good educational shape, and I’m happy with how far we’ve come with public safety. But now I’ve decided that it’s time to step aside. Twenty years is a long time to be mayor.
Metro: How much of a role did your health play in the decision not to run?
Menino: It didn’t play a role at all. I do a Menino schedule, not a mayor schedule. We’re talking 14 to 18 hour days. It’s time to make a change in my life. It had nothing to do with health.
Metro: What did your friends and family say about your decision?
Menino: They mostly supported me, they said, ‘Now you’ll be able to do what you really want,’ which is freelance on education and economic development issues.
Metro: How did Bostonians react?
Menino: People out in public said, ‘You’re really not going to run? Really?’
There is a special bond I have with the people of Boston. It’s a trust we have with each other, and it doesn’t come easy. You have to work at it.
Metro: What were the most challenging aspects of your time as mayor?
Menino: There was always a negative impression of Boston. I knew we had to try to change that image. Now it is a much more inclusive city than it was before. We also had to change the attitude about Boston public schools. Also, I wanted to get more people working; young people want to come here now. The attitude has changed.
Metro: There had to be some perks – what will you miss most about the job?
Menino: Perks? There are no perks to this job. It’s all work. I always enjoyed attending block parties, community meetings, and meeting with the elderly. You don’t get that from being in city hall; you get it out in the community.
Metro: Has the Marathon Bombing marred your last year in office?
Menino: That bombing was an act of two individuals who were Hell bent on creating mayhem. The city came out stronger than we went it. We came together and bonded, and Boston’s a better city because of it. We were solid, stood together. That’s what’s important.
Eyes on the horizon
Metro: What have you discussed with incoming mayor Marty Walsh?
Menino: We’ve had different conversations. I said to him that I’ll be helpful, but I’m not going to sit on the sidelines and be a critic. That’s about it. I’ll be there to help if need be.
Metro: Do you have faith in him as a leader?
Menino: I have faith in his ability to lead this city over the next four years. You have to be able to create a bond with the neighborhoods and the downtown areas. I know he has that ability, and I know he understands the importance of it.
Metro: What do you think are Boston’s biggest hurdles right now?
Menino: The issue of finances, of course, is big, and education. But the biggest issue we have to deal with is inequality. If the city is divided, it won’t work.
Metro: What will you do as Co-director of the Initiative on Cities at Boston University?
Menino: There’s no textbook on how to be a mayor. It takes actual experience. I plan to teach issues like putting a budget together, and help experts in their field with anything they need help on. I’ll be doing seminars, and hope to convene people and get grad students involved working on issues that need to be addressed.
Metro: Do you think you’ll retire outside of Boston?
Menino: Why would I move anywhere else?
Metro: Something warmer, maybe?
Menino: We have all four seasons here. Boston’s got everything you need.