Mayor Thomas Menino announced March 28 that he will not run for reelection this year after a record 20 years in office at a Faneuil Hall event broadcast live by New England Cable News.
Menino also said he has no desire to pick his successor.
After arriving on stage to the tune of “My Way,” Menino indicated that his recent health problems that hospitalized him for a long period are a major reason he will not run again.
“I’m back to a mayor schedule, but not a Menino schedule,” he said, referring to his famously long days and practice of visiting scores of community events per week. He choked up several times during the speech while pointing to various policy successes.
He also promised to remain involved in civic life in some fashion, saying he is not retiring.
“All I’m doing today is saying I’m not running. I have nine months left [in office],” Menino said after going off-script at the conclusion of his speech. He continued in a joking manner, “Just think of what I could do in nine months. I don’t have to worry about voters or anything. We could have some real fun.”
Menino’s move has left local leaders and residents reflecting on his legacy.
City Councilor Mike Ross called Menino “the political equivalent of [Boston sports legends] Ted Williams, Larry Bird and Bill Russell rolled into one.”
“Mission Hill and Jamaica Plain achieved a renaissance under the mayor,” said Ross. “He managed to take care of the neighborhoods while downtown thrived.”
“He’s laid the foundation for the future of this city,” said state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez. “The city was in a completely different place back in the early ’90s. He turned the city around.”
Sánchez pointed to such projects as the demolition and reconstruction of the Mission Main public housing development in Mission Hill, where he grew up, and the massive redevelopment of Jackson Square on the JP/Roxbury border that once dismissed as a “pipe dream.”
State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz had added surprise about Menino’s decision because she was traveling. She asked the Gazette for details of Menino’s speech announcing he will not run.
Noting a recent poll that showed that more than half of Boston residents have met the mayor personally, as well as his high approval rating, Chang-Díaz said, “That sets an extremely high bar for the accessibility of a big-city mayor.” She added that Menino loves the city and “I’m really glad to hear that love is reciprocated” in the recent outpouring of fond memories about the mayor.
City Councilor Tito Jackson released a written statement saying, “After serving the City for more than 20 years, the mayor has earned all the love and gratitude we can give him. His staff, who helped Mayor Menino change Boston for the better, are in our hearts as well.”
“Like watching a great ballplayer leaving the field or prizefighter exiting the ring, we’re watching a great mayor leave while he’s still on top,” said Richard Rouse, executive director of Mission Hill Main Streets. “Tom truly loved this great city and has made it even better. Tom Menino cared more about the Parker and Calumet streets than the Beacon and Boylston streets, and that has made all the difference.”
“We love him and wish him the very best,” said Maria Weinograd, co-owner of Mike’s Donuts on Tremont Street.
“I doubt there’s been a mayor in the whole country who’s done more to advance a neighborhood development agenda than Tom Menino has in the past 20 years,” said Richard Thal, executive director of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation, which joined the Back of the Hill Community Development Corporation in creating dozens of affordable housing units on the Back of the Hill over the past 15 years. Thal said that project happened in part because Menino was willing to put City resources into it.
Thal recalled Menino’s “mantra” of, “‘This is about people, after all,” and praised him for putting City money into affordable housing development and small business support. Thal said Menino administration officials are “national leaders” in such public health issues as racial disparities in care and violence prevention.
Peter Shanley contributed to this article.