Mayor-elect meets with Boston business leaders

Mayor Thomas M. Menino introduced the man elected to succeed him to the city’s business elite Friday. Some in the business community had worried about a longtime labor leader being chosen as the city’s chief executive.

In many ways, the event served as a passing of the torch from the man who has run the city for 20 years to Martin J. Walsh, the man who was elected Tuesday.

Walsh and Menino met with about 30 business executives during a power lunch organized by Menino at the Parkman House, a city-owned mansion on Beacon Hill. The two sat next to each other during the affair, dining on fish.


It was a day of transition, marking the official announcement of who will help lead Walsh’s transition team, including three former rivals. Walsh also outlined the steps he intends to take to give the public a voice as the Menino administration yields to a Walsh administration.

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Dr. Paula Johnson, chief of the division of women’s health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, described Friday’s lunch as an acknowledgment of the city’s progress and a glance toward the future.

“The new mayor made sure that everyone knows that he is invested in working with the business leaders of this city to make sure Boston continues on the trajectory that Boston has been on,” Johnson said.

Menino said there were no real policy discussions or parsing of issues such as taxes or building rules during the 90-minute lunch, which served as more of a debut than a debate.

Walsh was able to have one-on-one conversations with the people in the room, some of whom he had never met before, and to tell them a little bit about himself and the issues he campaigned on: turning around struggling schools, strengthening communities with low home ownership and high unemployment, expanding the health care industry. And in turn, business leaders told Walsh about their projects, plans, and passions.


Among the people in the room, city officials said, were James Davis, chairman of New Balance; James Gallagher, executive vice president of John Hancock; Dr. Gary Gottlieb, president of Partners HealthCare; David Long, chairman of Liberty Mutual; and Jack Connors, cofounder of Hill Holliday, and that advertising agency’s current president, Karen Kaplan.

The mayor-elect told the crowd that he was looking to the wisdom in the room, including the insights of Menino, to guide him as he continues building his transition team.

After lunch, Menino said, “I give this young man a lot of credit to have the insight to look and say: ‘I want to know those guys. I want to make sure they know who I am and what I’m all about for the next four years.’

“It’s so important to have the business community work with the mayor — that’s the foundation of your economy,” Menino said. “They’re the ones creating jobs. They create the tax base in our city.”

Friday’s lunch, he said, was a good start to the changeover from one administration to the next.


Sitting next to Menino, Walsh said, “The transition from a Menino administration to a Walsh administration, it will be flawless.”

The mayor-elect said he told the business leaders that he wants to continue many of Menino’s policies, such as creating summer jobs for young people and supporting community nonprofit organizations.

“I want that same relationship,” he said. “I let them know that it’s an open-door policy.”

Menino said that for the city to prosper, the mayor’s relationship with the downtown business community must be as strong as the one he has with the city’s neighborhoods. The two go “hand in hand,” Menino said, and Walsh, who has served 16 years in the Legislature, understands that.

“We didn’t elect a parochial state representative,” Menino said. “We elected a state representative who knows the issues of the city in so many different ways.”

But Walsh said he wants to know more, which is why he plans to implement a series of town hall meetings across the city, similar to the events held during his mayoral campaign, to listen to the needs and concerns of residents.

The town hall sessions will be held in every neighborhood and are expected to start in about two weeks. The issues, he said, will probably vary with the neighborhood, everything from snowplows, to transparency in the Boston Redevelopment Authority, to public health.

Just before the lunch, Walsh announced the six people who will cochair his transition team. Their duties are being defined, as is the structure of the team, which is expected to grow.

“It doesn’t matter if they supported me or not,” Walsh said. “We’re going to put people on the committee who are best for the job. We’re going to be looking in academia. We’re going to be looking in the health care industry. We’re going to be looking in the neighborhoods. We’re going to be looking throughout to make sure our transition team reflects the city of Boston.”

The core six people who will help usher in the Walsh administration include Felix G. Arroyo, John F. Barros, and Charlotte Golar Richie, the three top vote-getting candidates of color who became Walsh allies after the preliminary election.

The other three are Samuel Tyler, longtime president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a city budget watchdog group; Joyce Linehan, a public relations executive; and Katherine P. Craven, executive director of the University of Massachusetts Building Authority.

Walsh’s transition team said it plans to open a website this weekend for residents to track the changeover and to weigh in. People who want to help will be able to submit resumes via the website, he said.

Each resume will be read and categorized.

And once the structure of the transition team is in place, Walsh advisers will begin reaching out to people.

Akilah Johnson can be reached at