One bone-chilling Saturday night about 11 months ago, I ran into my neighbor Marty Walsh at a restaurant in Savin Hill.
As he drank a Coke and I drank something livelier, our talk quickly turned to Mayor Menino and the huge question on everyone’s minds: Would he run again? We agreed that the first open race in decades was the most likely scenario. Walsh then made this bold statement:
“If he doesn’t run, I’m going to run,” he said. “And I’m going to win.” It wasn’t what he said, but the quiet determination with which he said it. Not, I’m going to surprise you. Or keep your eye on me. “I’m going to run and I’m going to win.”
Congratulations. You were right. Around 10 o’clock Monday morning, you will become the 48th mayor of America’s greatest city.
You will quickly discover that winning the election was the easiest part of this. Not that getting elected was easy — your victory was hard fought.
But now you become the vessel for the hopes and dreams of a city. By the standards of most places, you are not a mayor, you are practically a monarch. Development, schools, crime, public safety, public housing — it’s all yours. You will wish some days there were three of you.
Of course, you come to this with a wealth of experience, both in terms of politics and life. A 16-year legislative career certainly counts for a lot. You have taken tough votes and made hard decisions. You have thousands of dedicated supporters for good reason.
Still, being a state representative, however effective, is nothing like being a mayor. You will make more decisions this week than you made all last year on Beacon Hill, and that is not hyperbole. The pace itself will be dizzying.
Not only that, the decisions have far more impact. As a legislator, you win some and you lose some. As a mayor, you make decisions that routinely affect lives. Sure you have a staff — or will eventually — but the responsibility is exponentially greater than that of one member of a legislature.
The first few appointments to the Walsh administration were announced over the weekend, and they were praised by people who know your new guys. That’s heartening, because you will be precisely as good as the people around you.
The city is in the midst of a curious transition. Curious because everyone agrees that we are in transition, but no one is sure — after two decades of bedrock stability — what that really means.
Don’t believe me? Just look at the Boston City Council, which is tied up in knots over the election of a new president on Monday. It’s a showdown between Boston Past (Bill Linehan) and Boston Future (Ayanna Pressley). Cutting the ties to the political past seems impossible for the council members, and watching them wring their hands is just agonizing.
While your relationship with your predecessor is said to be lukewarm, you inherit a city government that functions well. But of course, you were not elected as a caretaker successor. You promised — a tad vaguely — to reform education and development, to make the city more friendly to the arts community, to make a priority of the recovery community. You don’t have a police or fire commissioner, or a school superintendent. You have a lot to do.
But you also have a lot to work with: a city of unsurpassed heart, with intellectual capital second to none. You have a city that is hungry for change, with no appetite for stagnation. Not least, you inherit a city with a long — almost singular — history of loving its mayors and placing great faith in them.
So enjoy your big day, Mayor Walsh. Monday’s pomp and circumstance will feel like the culmination of a long and victorious march. But any decent mayor knows this is barely the beginning.