Wearing a bright blue-and-white-striped tie and his trademark grin, a reflective John R. Connolly stood Wednesday afternoon to deliver his final formal address to his City Council colleagues.
In a year that saw him transformed from an underdog mayoral challenger to the front-runner and then the runner-up, Connolly went from backyards to church pulpits to storefronts, proclaiming the need for better schools and more governmental accountability.
Boston’s future was bright, Connolly spent the summer declaring, and his role in the city’s continued success was to be prominent.
Wednesday’s address was different. The 10-minute speech served as a somber walk through memories and anecdotes by a politician who for now concludes his public service with a quiet exit.
Connolly, who lost the November mayoral election to state Representative Martin J. Walsh, told his fellow councilors that he made the decision in 2011 that he would not seek reelection this year. It was the mayor’s office or bust.
“I was either just going to leave politics or I was going to run for mayor, and now I’ve had the opportunity to do both,” Connolly said.
“I ran for mayor, and now I’m leaving politics,” he added, eliciting laughter from the crowded council chamber.
One month after losing the mayor’s race, Connolly said the thing he enjoyed most about being on the council was serving the people of Boston.
“I loved it because we went to work every day trying to make a difference, and I think we did,” he said.
The 13-member council met for the final time before newly elected members assume their posts in January. Members spent more than an hour paying tribute to Connolly and the three other councilors who will be leaving the council, after their bids in the mayoral election failed.
Councilors praised Felix G. Arroyo as a passionate and energetic advocate, lauded Rob Consalvo as one of the best and most thoughtful district councilors in city history, and touted Michael P. Ross’s steady hand and pragmatic voice as both a member of the council and previously as its president.
“Like Councilor Connolly, I loved this job and I ran for mayor because I love city government,” Consalvo said. “In closing, I would just like to say thank you.”
The meeting also served as the last presided over by Council President Stephen Murphy, who was reelected to the council but, having served three terms, cannot continue as the head of the body.
“It has been a great honor to lead this body,” Murphy said as he stood to adjourn the meeting. “I’m going to miss you all.”
After a handshake or two, Connolly briskly made his way to the door, saying little as he stepped out of the council chambers and Boston politics, perhaps for the last time.