The Last Stand

The Players

The Mayor

Asked what hosting the Democratic National Convention means to him, Tom Menino smiles and lies: “Just another week in July.” Sure it is. Landing Boston's first major-party convention represents long-sought validation for a mayor who is, in his own mind, the Rodney Dangerfield of American politics. His numbers may be through the roof, but he's more often derided in his hometown as the marble-mouthed “Mumbles” of a million malapropisms than feted as a national leader. That could change after a week of tributes to the war on crime and other accomplishments of the Menino years. Then again, union picketing and traffic hassles could leave the locals calling for Menino's scalp. That's our archetypically Bostonian way, and nobody knows it better than our quintessentially Bostonian mayor. Sighs Menino: “You're never a hero in your own backyard.” — Jon Keller

The Commissioner

Rioters, Republicans, and anyone else with an urge to disrupt the Democratic National Convention, be warned: There's a new top cop in town, and she means business. “The plan is set,” Kathleen O'Toole says confidently. “We'll have plenty of personnel to deal with any challenge we face.” A former state secretary for public safety who also once walked a beat, O'Toole has canceled all police vacations during the convention week and put her department on 12-hour shifts. And no wonder: The convention is her first big test since taking over an agency caught woefully unprepared for the embarrassing riots that followed the Super Bowl. — Matt Birkbeck

The Protester

If the 2000 convention in Los Angeles is any measure, thousands of protesters are headed our way. Some, such as Mariama White-Hammond, are already here. The 25-year-old director of Project HIP-HOP is helping organize “people's parties” to coincide with the convention. The community gatherings will call for the transfer of $100 billion from the military budget to social programs — and put the Dems on notice. “There are serious issues that need to be addressed,” says White-Hammond, “and I am going to vote for the party that makes those a priority.” — Michael Blanding

The New Guard

On paper, the ascendant politicos steering the convention host committee look imposing, their résumés studded with jobs in City Hall, the State House, the Capitol. In person, they show who they truly are: Just kids, really, seemingly too young to be responsible for marshaling an army of volunteers and proving the naysayers wrong about this huge event. At 35, Julie Burns, left, Boston 2004's director, is the wizened boss; communications head Karen Grant and chief of staff Stephen Kerrigan are both 32. By the time the balloons drop, we'll know how well they've done. If the whole thing comes off without a hitch — at least, without too many hitches — their next jobs could be running the whole town. — James Burnett

The Ringmaster

The only suspense in the Staples Center at the last Democratic National Convention was about what color shirt Al Gore would wear for his acceptance speech. (He went with white.) Fear not, says Emmy-winning television director and producer Don Mischer. The FleetCenter will be buzzing by comparison. Mischer has been hired by the Democrats to spice up this year's big bash through its four days of anticipated live coverage. “Issues and points of view, with a lot of preproduction, will make it more interesting, entertaining, and relevant,” promises Mischer, who has produced everything from the Super Bowl halftime show to the Emmy Awards. “I want to have an impact on people.” — Matt Birkbeck