Bill Linehan to leave City Council two months early

Bill Linehan, 66, a councilor for more than 10 years and a city employee for three decades, is stepping down after the council’s regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday.
Bill Linehan, 66, a councilor for more than 10 years and a city employee for three decades, is stepping down after the council’s regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday.(Keith Bedford for the Boston Globe)

Following an emotional City Council meeting, filled with personal good-byes from his colleagues, veteran Councilor Bill Linehan struck the gavel to officially mark his retirement from the legislative body after 30 years as a city employee.

“It’s been a long . . . journey for which I am so grateful,” Linehan said, pausing to compose himself. “This institution is very important. Don’t let anyone dismiss the value of this” body.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh also attended Wednesday’s council meeting and thanked Linehan “for what you’ve done and the agenda you’ve been able to push here in the City Council.” He presented Linehan with a Paul Revere bowl, a gift modeled after silver bowls made by the famous American silversmith that are often used to recognize achievements.


Not long after the gift was handed over, outside the council chambers, Linehan announced his endorsement of Edward Flynn — the son of the former mayor, a probation officer, and a veteran of the US Navy — to succeed him in the District 2 election.

“Ed has served his country, he served the Commonwealth, he served his community, and now this is a time for him to serve his city,” he said. “He understands the importance of city services and the delivery of those services, and he’s always looking out for the less fortunate.”

Flynn faces Mike Kelley, of Bay Village, a former aide to the late mayor Thomas M. Menino, on Nov. 7.

Linehan, 66, a councilor for more than 10 years and a city employee for three decades, acknowledged he has two months left on his term in office, but said he hopes to get an early start in preparing for after-council life as a consultant on government and political affairs. He said any more work he does as a city employee will restrict what he can do in the private sector, and he prefers to move on to private life, recognizing there are two new candidates preparing to replace him.


“It’s been over 10 years I’ve been on the council, and I just felt this was the right time. . . . I’m looking forward to the challenges in the next part of my life,” he said in an interview. “I’d like to do something else; I’m not a kid.”

District 2, which stretches from South Boston to Chinatown and the South End, has become central to the city’s economic boom; nearly half of all of the development in Boston over the last 10 years has occurred there, Linehan said.

The population of the district has grown since 2010 as well, with more people living, working, and visiting there than any other district in the city, he said.

Linehan has been one of the council’s most charismatic and confident figures. A South Boston resident who grew up in a housing project, he was first elected in 2007 in a special election to fill a vacancy left by Councilor James Kelly, and Linehan eventually rose to the council presidency.

It was not always an easy run to the council, however. He barely squeaked by challenger Suzanne Lee in the 2011 election, winning by just 97 votes. He won more convincingly in a 2013 rematch.

In his years on the council, he has advocated for development along the South Boston waterfront and taken on more controversial issues, such as a 2011 redistricting effort and a push for a council pay raise. He has proved willing to defend his positions, even when on the losing end, such as when he explained recently why he opposed a popular City Council measure that could restrict landlords’ ability to evict tenants without cause.


As council president in 2014, he worked behind the scenes to get gay rights groups to march in the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Linehan — a father of four adult children, a grandfather of seven, and married to his wife Judy for 44 years — said he’s had a “unique perspective” on public service over three decades. “I’ve worked for 30 years for the city, and I spent the last 10 on council,” he said. “The council has enormous ability to empower issues and people, if they work together and build consensus. . . . I felt I tried to do that in my tenure. We all have the responsibility to respect the institute and empower it.”

Meghans Irons of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Milton J. Valencia can be reached at