BOSTON—After one of the most hotly contested mayoral elections in local history, Martin J. Walsh was inaugurated mayor of Boston Monday at the Conte Forum at Boston College, his alma mater.
Walsh, a Boston native, grew up in the Dorchester neighborhood of the city. As a young man, he battled with alcoholism and survived cancer. His story is one of a local boy who overcame adversity to become a member of the state Legislature and an advocate for those less fortunate.
As the new mayor of Boston, Walsh has big shoes to fill. Boston’s outgoing mayor, Thomas M. Menino, served for 20 years. And because Menino took over when his predecessor, Raymond Flynn, stepped down, this is the first time Boston has seen a clean transition in 30 years.
That alone was enough to bring U.S Army Col. Brent Cummings to see the inauguration. “I am an active duty military officer so that ability to see how the civilian government transfers, the transfer of power is really interesting and unique,” he said.
Retired bus driver Bill Dailey also came out to support “the most grass-roots politician I know,” he said. “Here I am, a bus driver, sitting next to a senator—that about sums up Marty Walsh for you.”
End of an Era
Menino’s retirement signaled the end of an era for Boston, as many members of his administration chose to leave along with him. As mayor, Walsh will begin the search for a new superintendent of schools, a new chief of police, and a new fire chief.
In his inaugural address, Walsh touched on each of the major issues facing Boston—from the living standard of the elderly to business-friendly permitting and licensing reforms.
He talked at length about the problem of Boston’s failing public schools.
“We are known the world over for our colleges and universities,” he said. “It is time we had a public school system that is recognized for excellence as well.”
Hope and Promise
The overwhelming feeling of the day was looking into a bright future.
“It is an exciting time for the city, an exciting transition,” said Grand Rabbi Y. A. Korff, Chaplain for the City of Boston. “A time of hope and promise, and we are looking forward to seeing the progress for our city.”
State Sen. Karen Spilka was optimistic. She has worked alongside Walsh as a member of the Massachusetts legislature for 12 years.
“He has a really good heart,” she said. “He cares about people. He has a character that’s forged by a lot of adversity, and his priorities are in the right spot.”
City on a Hill
In her welcoming remarks, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recalled the story of John Winthrop, one of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who in his vision for Boston said that it would be a “City on a Hill,” a guiding light for all the world to see.
“Our work together has kept Boston on the forward edge of history,” said Warren.
Along with his goals for legislative change, Walsh also promised to enact, “tough new ethics standards for staff.”
Walsh promised to lay the groundwork for “streamline, transparent, and effective job-related growth,” adding, “We want the world to know that Boston is open for business.”
A City of Neighborhoods
Boston is a city of neighborhoods—territorial neighborhoods that at times seem worlds apart. Some saw this mayoral election as a simple Dorchester versus West Roxbury fight, with each neighborhood rooting for its own.
But Walsh’s platform was one of unity: Over and over, he promised to be a mayor for all of Boston.
In his inaugural address Walsh reiterated that theme. Harkening back to that same image of Boston as a City on a Hill, Walsh said, “but Boston is not just Beacon Hill,” the home of the Statehouse. “It is Savin Hill and Mission Hill…”
Walsh continued calling out hills in all parts of the city as residents responded with cheers from every corner of the stadium.
However, it is not simply unity across the tracks that Walsh hopes to bring to Boston.
“We cannot tolerate a city divided by privilege and poverty,” he said.
Boston is often thought of as an Irish Catholic town, and Walsh’s inaugural ceremony did not fall far from that tree. The opening prayer was lead by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, and after a heartfelt rendition of God Bless America, Irish tenor Ronan Tynan proclaimed, “Today is a good day to be Irish!”
Boston’s first Catholic mayor was John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, grandfather of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.