After 20 Years, Mayor Menino Is ‘Leaving the Job That He Loves’

Boston’s longest-serving mayor announced he won’t run for an unprecedented sixth term.

Mayor Tom Menino stood before a crowd of hundreds of supporters Thursday and officially announced he would not seek a sixth term in office. But the long-time mayor said that doesn’t mean he won’t continue to make sure Boston is a thriving city in some other capacity.

“I have no intention of letting up just yet,” Menino said, as he stood at a podium with his wife and other family members on either side of him. “I do plan to stay very engaged in Boston’s future.”

After two decades as the top elected official in Boston, Menino addressed constituents, politicians, and city employees with confidence in the fact that if he did run, he “can win” another term in office. But due to recent ailments, Menino said he hasn’t been operating on his usual “Menino schedule,” full of frequent visits to Boston’s neighborhoods, black-tie dinners, and ribbon-cutting ceremonies. “Spending so much time in the neighborhoods is what gives me energy … it’s the only way for me,” he said. “[But] today, I am here with the people I love, to tell the city I love, that I am leaving the job that I love.”

Menino entered Faneuil Hall at the start of the ceremony, alongside his wife, Angela, to the tune of “My Way” and a rousing standing ovation from attendees. At the head of the hall, he shook hands with top elected leaders before he took to the microphone.

“Notice the music? My way? I did it my way,” he said.

Menino’s 13-minute speech elicited a mixture of cheers, tears, handshakes, and hugs as supporters sat shoulder-to-shoulder in the packed hall, decorated with large flower arrangements and two televisions, which kicked off the event by showing a montage of video clips and photos of Menino dating as far back as 1983, while he was campaigning for his first term.

mayor menino

Photo by Steve Annear

Even before his farewell speech, state leaders were singing well-wishes Thursday afternoon. Governor Deval Patrick, who attended the event, said it’s hard to picture Boston without Menino as the mayor. “No one loves this city and her people more, or is more excited about her future. Mayor Menino has become a valued partner to me on policy and politics, and a trusted and beloved friend,” Patrick said.

Attorney General Martha Coakley called Menino a “friend” who has been a voice for many under-represented groups in the city of Boston. “Mayor Menino has led Boston’s resurgence and will leave a lasting legacy as one of the greatest mayors in the city’s rich history. For twenty years, [he] has been a champion for the people he has met in the neighborhoods every day—especially those who otherwise would have no voice,” she said in a statement.

Following Menino’s announcement, long-time staff members and friends lingered to talk about all the hard work Menino has done to keep the city running during the last 20 years. Freda Brasfield, who was holding a sign that read “World’s Best Mayor,” said the announcement was bittersweet. “I understand why he is [stepping down]. I think after all his hard work over the last 20 years, I would want to retire, too,” said Brasfield, who has worked for Menino for the last 10 years as an administration and finance manager. “But I don’t think we will ever have another mayor like him.”

Brasfield said Menino gave a heartwarming speech to his staff earlier in the day Thursday, something that wasn’t surprising to her considering the close relationships the mayor maintained with everyone that worked alongside him. “I’m excited to continue working with him for the next nine months,” she said.

Menino told the crowd during his speech, that he won’t endorse a successor, however, he hopes the next mayor loves Boston as much as he does.

Speculation about whether or not the 70-year-old mayor would run again have been swirling throughout the city in recent months, as the deadline to announce his candidacy crept closer, and a formidable opponent threw his hat in the race for the mayoral seat.

Reports that Menino would make an announcement about backing down from another mayoral bid first surfaced on Twitter late Wednesday night after former Boston Phoenix political pundit David Bernstein said two sources close to Menino’s camp had confirmed the rumors. Within minutes, the social media scene lit up with additional alleged confirmations and reports that Menino would hold a press conference at Faneuil Hall on Thursday afternoon to deliver the historic news to the city he has been leading for the last 20 years.

In what now seems like more than just a coincidence, during a prior speech delivered to the Boston Municipal Research Bureau on Monday, Menino boasted about some of his recent—and long-term— accomplishments as mayor, including Boston’s “record of success when it comes to connecting residents with necessary technology” and the fact that the city’s housing market grew faster than it has in the last five decades, two of which he was in charge for, by adding 20,000 housing units in between 2000 and 2010.

“Our test scores are up. Our graduation rates are the highest they have ever been. Our students are out-performing their peers in other big cities,” Menino said during the speech, just days before announced he wouldn’t run for reelection. “Our schools are better than ever, but they aren’t as good as they will be.” Menino also told the crowd at the annual address that there are more jobs than ever before in Boston, along with a growing rate of development and “more young workers per capita than any other city.”

“I have never been more confident about Boston,” he said. Menino reiterated this message during his official announcement on Thursday afternoon.

Menino’s disinterest in seeking a sixth term became a topic of conversation at the end of 2012, after he fell ill and was admitted to the hospital and a rehabilitation facility where he stayed for eight weeks. The Mayor only recently moved back to his Hyde Park home, after temporarily living at the Parkman House on Beacon Hill where he was recovering from his hospital stay.

Although Menino won’t take on another term, it won’t be the last time the people of Boston will see him in an active city role. “I am not retiring. I am just turning one page on this chapter, to the next,” he said Thursday.