Metro

‘They expect to see the mayor.’ The hectic days of Walsh and Menino

Mayor Martin Walsh at the second annual City Hall Plaza party on Boston's Front Lawn  in June 2016.
Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/File
Mayor Martin Walsh at the second annual City Hall Plaza party on Boston's Front Lawn in June 2016.

During his two-decade reign as mayor, Thomas M. Menino was known for his willingness — eagerness, even — to pop up at the most prosaic of public events.

Franklin D. Roosevelt School field day. Neighborhood coffee hour. Courtesy call. A library gala. Bowdoin Street after-school program end-of-year celebration. It was all in a day’s work (June 6, 2008, to be exact).

This frenetic pace left political observers wondering whether Mayor Martin J. Walsh could maintain the same clip during his first term.

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A Globe analysis of a three-month slice of the third year of Menino’s fifth full term in office and Walsh’s first term show that he has not — though his pace has been far from slow. During the three summer months of 2008 and 2016, respectively, Menino’s schedule consisted of 10.1 events per day, while Walsh averaged 7.8.

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The Globe chose those samples because they came during non-election years, when it is less likely that political necessities would warp the schedule, and before Menino began suffering from significant health problems. Walsh’s office provided both mayors’ schedules to the Globe upon request.

“The people of Boston expect to know and meet the mayor; they expect to see the mayor,” Walsh said in a telephone interview on Monday. “They expect to see you out in the street, and to thank you if they want to thank you, and to give credit if they want to give credit to you, and to be hard on you if they want to be hard on you.”

Menino inherited the office from another high-motor mayor, Raymond L. Flynn, and made the daily gallop a key component of his legacy. By 2013, his last year in office, a Globe poll showed that 60 percent of respondents said they had met Menino personally.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino gave a tour to Boston Business leaders and others during a Experience Boston Event in 2008.
Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/file
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino gave a tour to Boston Business leaders and others during a Experience Boston Event in 2008.

“Christmas was brutal,” said Secretary of State William F. Galvin, a longtime Democratic officeholder, recalling Menino making multiple visits to separate lightings of the same business-district Christmas trees. “He’d keep showing up.”

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Calling Menino “almost compulsive” about his public appearances, Galvin added, “I’m not sure anyone could do exactly what he did. Or would want to, to be very honest.”

A June survey conducted by the Globe and Suffolk University found that 39 percent of residents said they had met Walsh, who was a Dorchester state representative and labor leader before taking office in 2014.

Walsh said he doesn’t factor his predecessor’s style into the way he does the job.

“I don’t govern with that in mind at all, other than that during my time as a state rep or whatever it is I do, I like getting out with the people. I think it’s important,” he said.

Walsh is facing his first challenge as mayor from City Councilor Tito Jackson, who collected 29 percent of the vote in last month’s preliminary, to Walsh’s 63 percent. One of Jackson’s primary lines of attack has been that Walsh is disconnected from neighborhoods and too focused on downtown interests.

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Both Walsh and Menino saw exigencies during the sample months that could have limited their itineraries. Menino had wrenched his knee at the previous year’s World Series celebration and would require surgery in October. Walsh spent three June days in China for an energy conference, where individual events were not listed. Both men attended the Democratic National Convention in the respective years.

Thomas Menino, left, spoke with department heads alongside Mayor-Elect Martin Walsh in 2013.
Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff/file
Thomas Menino, left, spoke with department heads alongside Mayor-Elect Martin Walsh in 2013.

Their respective dockets also feature schedule makers’ quirks — Walsh’s featuring “travel time” built in between events and “MJW time,” which aides say can function as a space for miscellaneous meetings, calls, or a meal. Menino’s schedule is laced with entries that provide little more information than “mayor’s office — meeting.”

And both itineraries feature meetings of dubious governing value. Walsh fetched a Saturday “photo op” with William Shatner at the Seaport’s World Trade Center, while Menino met with Chevy Chase at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

The stops range from the pedestrian — “Eddie Andelman’s Hot Dog Safari” for Menino, denoting an annual party that was thrown by the renowned sports-talk personality — to the highfalutin/potentially profound, like Walsh’s “Breakfast w/ Drew Faust/Harvard President (confirmed)” at McKenna’s on Savin Hill Avenue.

Menino’s most packed day from the sample months was June 12, 2008, which featured 20 events, ranging from a parent orientation session at Camp Harborview to a lunch with the Chief Executives Club. Walsh’s briskest day was Aug. 12, 2016, with 18 items taking him from City Hall in the morning to a peace walk in Roxbury to a festival in the North End, with 11 meetings in between.

“With a mayor, you want him to not only do the work he was elected to do, but you want him out, interacting with his constituents,” said Colette Phillips, a public relations executive. “It’s almost the only way you get that feedback, by being there. People judge a mayor, to some extent, by his engagement and involvement at the granular, grass-roots level.”

Dot Joyce, a longtime aide to Menino, called the late mayor’s frenzied itinerary a function both of his fondness for people and of the political culture through which he rose. “He grew up in an era when retail politics was handshakes and showing up, it wasn’t e-mail and cellphones,” Joyce said.

Outside the Roxbury Historical Society building this morning Mayor Thomas M. Menino,left, assisted in unveiling the contents of a 1922 time capsule that was found in the historic Ferdinand Building site in Dudley Square. in 2008.
George Rizer/globe staff/file
Outside the Roxbury Historical Society building this morning Mayor Thomas M. Menino,left, assisted in unveiling the contents of a 1922 time capsule that was found in the historic Ferdinand Building site in Dudley Square. in 2008.

Other entries are revealing. In the entirety of 2008, Menino, according to his schedule, met six times with fellow Democrat and then-governor Deval Patrick. In 2016, Walsh had Charlie Baker, the Republican governor, on his schedule more than twice that, and the two correspond privately far more frequently, say sources close to both men.

One hallmark of Walsh’s first term has been the political embrace in which he has engaged the governor. A footnote of Menino’s tenure was the early distance between him and Patrick, the first Democratic governor alongside whom he served.

People close to Patrick say he and the mayor patched things up in time for the governor’s reelection bid in 2010; the two remained close until Menino’s death in 2014. Patrick delivered a eulogy at Menino’s funeral.

Public grieving is a staple of many political calendars. Menino and Walsh attended an equal number of wakes per month, 11, in the comparable samples. Aides to both men said the total is probably higher because some do not crop up on the calendar.

Indeed, the mayoral schedule is elusive. An operative who worked against Menino in his final campaign dispatched a tracker — typically a young aide wielding a video camera — and found many stops that never appeared on the official agenda.

“We tracked Menino days and days at a time, and he was relentless . . . He stopped for food or coffee from one stop to another. [He would] see a pothole and stop and talk to people,” said Frank Perullo, who worked for City Councilor Michael Flaherty in his 2009 bid against Menino. Perullo has also consulted for Jackson and raised funds for Walsh.

Walsh, too, said the documented schedule does not accurately portray the daily doings of the city’s chief executive.

For Menino, Phillips said, “being out and about with people, that was part of his schtick, stopping in.” As for Walsh, “He has another 15 years or so to catch up with Mayor Menino.”

Martin Walsh greeting future graduate Milton Harris a member of the Build Program before his graduation ceremony at Jeremiah Burke High School in June 2016.
Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff
Martin Walsh greeting future graduate Milton Harris a member of the Build Program before his graduation ceremony at Jeremiah Burke High School in June 2016.

Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at jim.osullivan@globe.com.