As provided for in the city charter, then-city council president Tom Menino became mayor of Boston on July 12, 1993 when Ray Flynn resigned to become U. S. ambassador to the Vatican. (A good job, but not the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development job Flynn had hoped for when he spent much of 1992 traveling around the country doing anything Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign asked him to do.)
Later today Menino (and his 74% popularity rating) is expected to announce he won’t run for re-election this fall, retiring after a record five terms and 20+ years as mayor. There’s an entire generation of Bostonians (anyone born after after, say, 1987 or who moved to the city since ’93) who have known no other mayor.
Some initial thoughts about all this:
- Being honest helps. Menino’s known for playing favorites with certain developers, but there’s never been a whiff of scandal or corruption in his administration.
- If you like being mayor in a city the size of Boston (about 600,000), you can be mayor for a long time—if you show up. A big part of Menino’s popularity is the fact that he shows up. He shows up for ribbon cuttings and groundbreakings and ceremonial dinners. He also shows up when an apartment building in Dorchester goes up in flames, or there’s a bad shooting in Mattapan, or there’s flooding in the Fenway.
- A good economy helps. Menino took office at the start of the Clinton boom and had the good fortune to be mayor of a city in which the major employers universities, hospitals, banks and mutual funds, high-tech research and manufacturing were all in industries that were growing. (Ask any mayor of Detroit from the last 50 years what it’s like trying to govern when your industrial, employment and tax base is in steady decline.)
- Menino’s been such a dominant political force in Boston for so long that nobody has a clue who’ll be mayor this time next year. Which is, in its own way, somewhat refreshing.
Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section below.
Crossposted at: http://masscommons.wordpress.com/