For the past several decades Tom Glynn, who leaves his post this week as head of the Massachusetts Port Authority, has seemingly been everywhere, with an uncanny knack for landing in the middle of the city’s most important institutions.
His career has spanned transportation (MBTA general manager), health care (chief operating officer of Partners for 15 years), a few stints in Washington (including deputy secretary of Labor during the Clinton administration), and several forays into academia.
He has been an effective public manager — to the benefit of not just the complex institutions the 72-year-old worked for, but also the broader community.
For the past six years Glynn has presided over Massport’s three airports, three ship terminals and an enormous real estate development portfolio in the Seaport District and East Boston.
Love that direct flight to Hong Kong or Tel Aviv or Dubai — and now to Cuba? Well, thank Glynn for that. On his watch some 20 new international destinations were added at Logan Airport, increasing international passenger traffic by 65 percent.
But he insists his proudest achievement has been revitalizing the working port, “especially in terms of level of difficulty,” he said in a recent interview. “That’s 7,000 jobs.” Traffic at the container terminal, the cruise terminal, and the auto port is up 30 percent across the board.
Those who live and work in the burgeoning Seaport neighborhood can see the results of Glynn’s efforts to use Massport land to further broad-based public purposes: The South Boston Waterfront Transportation Center will provide additional parking; a new Omni Hotel will help serve the nearby Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. But the latter will do much more — the Massport-generated plan for racial and gender diversity in the property’s development has already become a model for other public agencies.
That’s the kind of policy where the values of a CEO become as important as his managerial expertise. That’s where Tom Glynn throughout his career has made a difference. It’s also why as he shifts back to academia for another stint at Harvard’s Kennedy School he’ll be sorely missed in the community he has served so diligently.