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He was an institution at City Hall, a keeper of records and all things related to Boston elections.

Now, after 35 years as a steady presence in the Boston Election Department, John Donovan has stepped down.

Donovan, 62, said he’d been thinking about retiring for some time, particularly after the former head of the department, Geraldine Cuddyer, retired in January.

Donovan stayed around for a while longer, serving as acting director and helping to keep things running smoothly while Mayor Martin J. Walsh looked for a permanent department leader.

“I’d been there for 35 years,’’ said Donovan, who retired this month. “I’m not getting younger. I might as well enjoy myself.”


Donovan joins a steady stream of departures by longtime city operatives. The mayor hailed Donovan for his service and named Sabino Piemonte as acting elections chief.

“I thank John for his many years of service to the City of Boston, and I wish him the best of luck in his retirement,” Walsh said in a statement.

Donovan, who lives in Roslindale, said Walsh and his administration have been fair and supportive.

“I retired on my own,’’ Donovan said. “I didn’t have it in my heart to stay on any longer. I have no regrets.”

Donovan began his career with the city in August 1980, serving briefly in the old building department before joining the Election Department in 1983.

He started in an entry-level position and worked his way up to head assistant registrar of voters. He earned $138,151 last year, according to city salary data.

Donovan worked for four mayors, serving in the administrations of Kevin White and Walsh, and honing his talents under Raymond Flynn and Thomas M. Menino.

He became a commander of municipal facts and details for harried residents and reporters under deadline.

Donovan said he loved helping people and had a terrific staff to boot.


“I can’t think of anything bad to say. I had a wonderful career. I’m thankful to be able to serve people,’’ Donovan said.

He isn’t the first John Donovan to spend his career in the city’s Election Department. His father, John Donovan Sr., also served as a top election official, for more than three decades.

Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com.