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Mayors lament loss of Menino’s voice

As Boston prepares for political life after Mayor Thomas M. Menino, his colleagues north of Boston are full of praise for the Hub’s longtime leader, but are concerned about the effect his retirement could have outside his home city.

“There is no immediate replacement for someone like Mayor Menin, who brings all that experience and all that political leverage to the table,” said Mayor Daniel Rizzo of Revere.

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He cited, as an example, Menino’s role in the Metro Mayors Coalition, a group of mayors and managers from 13 Greater Boston communities that works on common issues.

“He had a voice that resonated louder than any other city or town in terms of dealing with municipal issues, from collective bargaining to health insurance to violence in communities,” said Salem Mayor Kimberley L. Driscoll. “There are so many innovative programs he started, but he also helped us advocate at the state and federal level for resources and reforms. His voice was always louder than anyone else’s and it was welcomed.”

Menino announced on March 28 that he would not seek a sixth term, saying that health problems precluded him from devoting his customary energy to the job.

“It’s a major loss,” said Medford Mayor Michael J. McGlynn, who was present for the announcement at Faneuil Hall.

“I have fought side by side with Tommy for 20 years, and he’s always been very vocal and direct on what he believes to be the priorities of municipalities.”

McGlynn, a 26-year mayoral veteran, cited the preservation of local aid and the successful push for legislation helping cities and towns to lower health costs as two of those priorities.

Menino is also known as a national leader on issues such as gun control, McGlynn said.

“He’s a big-city mayor and he has the respect of mayors across the country, and of legislative leaders on Capitol Hill and Beacon Hill,” he said. “So we are certainly going to miss him.”

“Menino may be best known as the people’s mayor, but what’s not so widely known is that he was a mayor’s mayor. He was the guy that we could turn to for leadership on issues facing cities,” Carolyn Kirk, mayor of Gloucester, said by e-mail. “I’ll always be grateful for the time I was able to serve with him.”

Beverly Mayor William F. Scanlon Jr. said Menino’s retirement “has to have an impact somewhat, because he has access to everybody on Beacon Hill and I’m sure better than anyone else.”

Gary Christenson said that in his 15 months as mayor of Malden, “I have looked to Mayor Menino as our leader — meaning the leader of all the mayors across the state. . . . He’s given us a path to travel that might not otherwise exist.’’

Amesbury Mayor Thatcher W. Kezer III said that whoever succeeds Menino might wield clout “but it will take some time and effort . . . to get to the level Mayor Menino has.”

Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash said Menino “elevated the cause of all of Boston, but also “elevated the cause of the region. . . . He led statewide initiatives that helped Boston, but also helped other communities.”

In his e-mail, Ash also cited specific help that Boston, under Menino, had provided to Chelsea, including the purchase of energy-efficient lighting and, for some years, allowing Chelsea to be part of Boston’s health insurance system.

“He is a big-city mayor who never lost focus on all the little things, and the rest of us were part of those little things that he took pride in watching over. His loss will be great,” Ash said.

Mayor Steve Zanni of Methuen said Menino’s success in bringing economic development to Boston also helped the region, and his departure will be “a definite loss to the area.”

Several local officials said Menino has provided valuable guidance and inspiration, in particular to new mayors.

“He had such a presence. He was the role model for every mayor, myself included,” said Woburn Mayor Scott D. Galvin, who is in his second term.

“When we have a mayors’ meeting and he walks in, everyone stands up. He commands respect from everyone and deserves it.”

Mayor Robert J. Dolan of Melrose vividly recalled the help Menino gave him when he first took office at age 29 in 2002.

Dolan had asked to speak to a Boston official about Melrose joining Boston’s health insurance system.

“He spent half a day with me, telling me how to be mayor,” Dolan said.

“He brought me to all his operations people. He gave me some tips. . . . He was just so interested in helping someone who was younger, who was new on the job.”

“We are going to miss Tom Menino as a friend and a colleague, every mayor,” said Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone.

“He never hesitated to help out a mayor who sought out his advice or looked to his ideas, given his depth of experience.”

Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr., in a statement, expressed thanks to Menino “for the guidance and the leadership that he has shown to all Massachusetts mayors. Mayor Menino has been a great friend to me and to the city of Everett. This is truly a loss for the city of Boston and the entire Commonwealth. ”

Medford's McGlynn said it will take time for the next mayor of Boston to earn the stature that Menino acquired.

In the meantime, he said other members of the Massachusetts Mayors Association will do their best to fill the void Menino’s departure will leave. “But it’s a powerful voice that will be missed at those meetings,” he said.

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.
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