WOBURN — On a farewell tour of the state he represented as US senator for 28 years, John F. Kerry returned this afternoon to the place where he cut his teeth as a criminal prosecutor, waxing nostalgic about his early days in the Middlesex district attorney’s office.

Things have changed since he last worked there, said Kerry, who was confirmed by the Senate Tuesday as the new US secretary of state.

When he started as a prosecutor, Kerry noted, the office occupied a Cambridge building with a jail on the top floors. The new offices are in a swanky building in Woburn, while the old building, empty except for the jail, needs an asbestos cleanup and is to be redeveloped.


“I’m very touched, coming back here, although it’s not the building I worked in,” Kerry said, then joked, “I don’t know what’s the matter with you. Don’t you like asbestos? I miss that old building.”

Kerry reminisced about his beginnings as a student prosecutor and his first case, a driving under the influence case. He said he was so green that he logged every whiskey bottle in the case as evidence without needing to do so.

He eventually moved on to bigger cases as an assistant district attorney and established one of the country’s first victim assistance programs.

“I loved the job of being a prosecutor,” he said. “I love the job of sitting in a courtroom.”

Standing before a room full of people, Kerry talked about going after the Winter Hill gang when everyone thought it was impossible. When Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone told him that the former leader of the gang, Howie Winter, now an octogenarian, was indicted last year on new charges, Kerry quipped, “Get him in jail soon. Don’t tell him I’m here.”

Kerry hugged people in the office, shook their hands, and posed with them for pictures. He even visited his old desk.


He thanked the lawyers and other staff and said he was honored to have served as their senator.

“Public service is the best thing there is. And, I was saying to some folks in Worcester a little while ago, I’m really going to miss this part of it. I’m going into another part of it. And obviously, I’m excited about it. But representing people ... is as good a job as there is. And I have been so privileged, beyond words, to be able to do that for 28 years of my life,” he said.