Hours before his official announcement, Mayor Tom Menino emerged from his Hyde Park home, and with a stroke of genuine humility we're all accustomed to hearing, said he would not run for re-election.
“It’s been a great time,” Menino said. “It’s a changed city and I’ve been glad that I’ve been a small part of this changed city.”
A small part is a gigantic understatement. Commercial development, new skyscrapers, affordable housing, expanded bike paths, and greener mass transit are part of the mayor’s living legacy.
“I think of him as everybody’s friend more than a mayor,” said Hyde Park’s John Vaccaro.
A major way it showed is by all the people Menino has touched. A much-talked-about Boston Globe poll revealed a staggering 57 percent of Bostonians have, at one time or another, met the mayor.
"No matter what part of the city you go, you will see they like him,” Vaccarro said.
Vaccaro, 87, has seen his share of Boston mayors come and go. Vaccaro owns a local corner market in Hyde Park. He even caters the mayor’s barbeques. Vaccaro said he appreciates Menino’s attention to areas like Mattapan, Roxbury and Hyde Park.
“I think it’s cleaner than it has been and it’s safer,” he said. “You can walk anyplace around Hyde Park now and you’re safe. One time you couldn’t.”
Of course, with huge margins of victory in every one of his re-election bids, Menino's appeal is not isolated to his home base of Hyde Park. A short drive into Roxbury finds a 59-year-old man named Jimmy. He credits Menino with rising property values.
“All our real estate taxes are down,” he said. “He keeps it down for the people. He’s a good mayor. I want him to stay.”
On this day, it seems much more than 57 percent of Boston has met the Mayor. Of the 27 people I spoke to, only three had never met Menino. Over in Dorchester’s Field’s Corner neighborhood, Ivy Washington said she’s met the mayor not just once, but twice, at block parties.
“I thought he did a very good job, helped a lot of people with parking and housing,” Washington said. “He knows what’s best for him.”
With all the Mayor has accomplished, from schools, to innovation, to the confidence of Bostonians, his health would be the thing that kept him from running for re-election again.
So it's with a dose of reality, of looking to the future, that Joseph Crooks of Dorchester said leadership change will be good for the city.
“It’s time for new blood,” Crooks said. “New ideas. He did what he could do, and it’s time for a change.”
And Denise Upshaw, a 50-year-old resident of Field’s Corner, said she’s most grateful for the affordable housing Menino has built in her neighborhood.
“He’s so good at heart,” Upshaw said. “He wants to see everything done the right way. I think he’s done his time and I have no fault with that whatsoever.”