Ed Davis stood before the TV cameras in Watertown Friday night and struck the perfect tone as he talked about the end of the most intense week in Boston history.
The Boston police commissioner radiated pride in his department and in Boston as he discussed the arrest of the second Marathon bomber.
“Four days ago, my city was ruthlessly attacked. There’s no explaining the savagery involved here; there’s no explanation for it. I’ve spent the last several days looking at hundreds of hours of videotape. I got to see how brutal an attack . . . over and over again.
“But most importantly, I got to see what the Boston police officers who responded to that scene, along with the medical personnel, and the other first responders, did to put people back together. Tourniquets, stemming the bleeding with their hands, putting a man who was on fire out with their hands. These are the kind of things that came out of this savagery. It makes me proud to be a Boston police officer. It makes me proud to be a part of this team.”
He sounded like a leader. He sounded like a fount of stability. He sounded, in fact, like just the person to be Boston’s next mayor.
I asked Davis yesterday if he has considered running.
“I’m not a politician,” he said. “It’s an incredible honor to be police commissioner. I suppose no one would ever dismiss it, and it’s flattering that someone thinks I could be mayor. But I think of myself as a cop.”
The Marathon attack and its aftermath have underscored the importance of strong leadership. Governor Deval Patrick provided it. Mayor Thomas M. Menino provided it. Davis provided it. Menino’s successor has to be capable of holding us together in a crisis. The bar just went way up, and most of the current field clearly can’t meet it.
In his six-plus years as police commissioner, Davis has been near exemplary. He has combined the management skills to run the most complex and sensitive of city departments with a skillful touch in dealing with the community. He has shown consistent deference to Menino, while being his own man in the job. As we saw last week, he excels under pressure, and cares profoundly about the city.
Are those not the qualifications for the job?
True, Davis has never run for office. Nothing bad about that. You don’t have to be a career politician to be a great mayor.
His rivals would have a head start in fund-raising and organization. If Davis got in, those advantages would evaporate. Smart people estimate that serious candidates will need to raise $1 million for this race. Davis can do that easily. In fact, given his popularity, Davis could hold his first fund-raiser in the TD Garden. Money wouldn’t be a problem.
He would also transcend geography; he wouldn’t be another candidate slugging it out to own the vote in West Roxbury or Dorchester. He is way beyond that. After last week, his political base consists of, basically, everybody. He might also stand to inherit a lot of Menino’s organization.
But his best selling point is that he is simply the right person now. Davis would bring smarts, poise, stability, and deep experience.
Not to knock the declared candidates, but this field is not exactly overflowing with gravitas. It is dominated by second-tier pols who have seldom, if ever, had to make hard decisions. Only Suffolk district attorney Dan Conley has run a major agency. The thought of anyone in this field running Boston right now unnerves me. That may not be entirely fair, but it’s the truth.
Which brings us to the only question that really matters in any campaign: Who do we trust to lead us —to be in charge at that inevitable moment when we really need a mayor?
I think we just found out.