Boston Mayor Tom Menino, the longest-serving mayor in the city’s history, died today at 71.
Menino, who left office earlier this year after an unprecedented 20 years leading Boston, was recognized by Governing as a Public Official of the Year in 2001. Here is an excerpt from that profile, which indicates the enormous impact Menino had already had not just on Boston, but on mayors across the country:
It’s not unusual these days to find a mayor who thinks neighborhoods are important. The era is long since past when creating a healthy city was thought to mean pouring all one’s attention into downtown.
But in many places, neighborhood development — or redevelopment — has meant just one thing: housing. Improve the housing stock, the thinking goes; make it desirable and, if possible, affordable, and the rest will take care of itself.
That’s not what Tom Menino believes. Menino, 58, who is completing his second term as mayor of Boston, is a champion of neighborhood commerce. His reasoning is deceptively simple: “You can’t have a center of a neighborhood and have vacancies and no vitality,” he says, “and then expect people to have confidence in that neighborhood.”
Governing also published a lengthy profile of Mayor Menino in January 2012, midway through his unprecedented fifth term, when he was then 69 years old:
[...] Menino seems as dogged as ever. If anything, his fifth term has been marked by a renewed energy. He has always been focused on building his city lot by lot, block by block. He’s the mayor of neighborhoods. When he talks about his successes, he’s still likely to mention small-scale triumphs like a grocery store he brought to Roslindale or a new police station in Dudley Square. Early in his tenure, a local columnist derided him as nothing but an “urban mechanic,” a guy too focused on tinkering and retooling to provide the city with any real direction. As it turns out, that approach has proven marvelously effective, but critics still charge that Menino is an “incrementalist” who lacks grand vision.
Beginning with his fifth term, however, the mayor seems hell-bent on shaking that image. Just after Election Day 2009, when Menino beat his opponent, former City Councilman Michael Flaherty, by a 15-point margin, the mayor told The Boston Globe that he was ready to “take more risks.” “The fifth term, I have more to accomplish,” he says today, on the way to Johnny and Gino’s. “More challenges. The danger you have when you’re in your third term, fourth term, fifth term, is that you might sit back and rest on your laurels. And that’s the worst thing you could do. If you’re staying status quo, you’re falling backward.”