After delivering what was likely his final State of the City address on Tuesday night, Mayor Martin J. Walsh is stepping down after seven years as the city’s political leader, and his performance on the job is already receiving a largely laudatory response.
“I think he will be remembered overall positively,” Rep. Jay Livingstone said of Mayor Walsh. “[In Back Bay and on Beacon Hill], he’ll generally be remembered for working with the business communities and the neighborhood associations to achieve the best results.”
Upon entering office, however, Mayor Walsh initially found himself at odds with the Beacon Hill community, which hadn’t largely supported him in the election, Rep. Livingstone said, over the installation of ADA-accessible curb-cuts on streets in that neighborhood.
“But at the end of the day, he listened to the neighborhood’s concerns and took them into account,” Rep. Livingstone said, “and we were able to reach a resolution that satisfied everyone’s expectations.”
While Rep. Livingstone said the number of people suggesting that he enter the race to fill Mayor Walsh’s seat has been flattering, he flatly insists he isn’t interested in the job.
“ A diverse, talented group of individuals have declared or seem like they’re ready to declare their candidacies,” Rep. Livingstone said. “Boston seem like it will have a great choice to replace Mayor Walsh, and I look forward to learning about those candidates as the race develops.”
City Councilor Kenzie Bok, who also said she has no intention of running for mayor and remains committed to her work in District 8, wrote: “I think one of Mayor Walsh’s greatest legacies in the district will be the Community Preservation Act. His support was crucial to its passage, and when you think about its three pillars — historical preservation, parks, and affordable housing — those are three very important priorities for our district. In fact, it’s really the first city historical preservation money to be made available. I’ve seen so many great CPA projects get funded in our neighborhoods already, and I think the program has been set up well—so that’s definitely a legacy for the Mayor to be proud of.”
Elliott Laffer, chair of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay, said, “I think Marty Walsh has a tremendous body of difficult experiences that he personally and his family have dealt with that makes him a very compassionate person, a very caring person, and that’s really come through in the work he’s done as mayor.”
As Mayor, Walsh also made major strides as he became more comfortable on the job. “He’s grown a lot as mayor, and that’s not unusual for someone in that position,” Laffer said.
Mayor Walsh’s success in increasing the public-housing stock throughout the city, Laffer said, and his adroitness in handling the coronavirus is how his tenure in Boston will likely be remembered.
“I was a skeptic in 2013, but I’m really going to miss Marty Walsh.,” said Tom Perkins, President of the Bay Village Neighborhood Association. “Faisa Sharif and his Neighborhood Services team are terrific at following up on details, getting things done. There may not be much glamour in fixing streetlamps, installing crosswalks or enforcing regulations, but Walsh clearly understood that mayors make their reputation by delivering on quality-of-life issues and being responsive to all residents of the City, not just those in their natural constituency. He hasn’t wasted much time sloganeering about issues beyond the Mayor’s control or pandering to audiences outside the City limits. Huge shoes to fill.”
Rob Whitney, chair of the Beacon Hill Civic Association board of directors, said, “As president and now chair of the Civic Association, I had a lot of interaction through Mayor Walsh’s senior staff, including Chris Osgood [the Mayor’s chief of streets, transportation and sanitation] and Chris Cook [commissioner of the Boston Parks Department] that was really positive, working with our neighborhood on issues that are important to residents.”
Whitney praised Osgood, under Mayor Walsh’s leadership, in particular for his work implementing the agreement that the Civic Association now has with the city for upgrading sidewalk intersections
“Mayor Walsh has been very good, and especially [Osgood] and his staff, at creating more accessibility on Beacon Hill for the present and into the future,” Whitney said.
Moreover, Whitney said he has also been “impressed with Mayor Walsh’s commitment to affordable housing and his attempt to create affordable housing in all neighborhoods in the city, and of course, the long-term project that will continue long after he goes to Washington.”
Whitney said that he looks forward to the Beacon Hill Civic Association joining with the West End Civic Association and the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay again to sponsor a mayoral candidates forum in the coming months.
Tim Horn, president of the Fenway Civic Association, commended Mayor Walsh for his commitment to the city’s parks since the groundbreaking at Symphony Park at the beginning of his first term.
“The support for the rehab of the Johnson Gates and the entrance to the Back Bay Fens and the increase in parks funding in general now appears like the best possible use of funds prior to a major pandemic,” Horn wrote. “Our parks and open spaces have been over run with good use this year and due to the investment in these places they were ready for the increased use. It is vital that funding for parks be sustained in the future. It is the one area that benefits all residents regardless of age, race or gender.”
Sharon Durkan, who chairs the Boston Ward 5 Democrats, praised President-elect Joe Biden for his choice of Walsh as Secretary of Labor, where, she said, Walsh “will get the chance to continue his legacy of commitment to workers and working families on the national level.”
Added Durkan: “Mayor Walsh has led Boston during the biggest national public health crisis in history. The last [seven] years, we have seen some great technological improvements from City Hall including the innovation of Boston 311, which better enabled residents for support in non-emergency issues. These improvements will better enable the next Mayor to build on accessibility and transparency at City Hall. We’ve seen an increasingly empowered council, and I anticipate the collaboration will continue with the next Mayor’s administration.”
Looking ahead to Boston’s next mayoral election, Durkan wrote, “This is bound to be an exciting year of conversation about Boston’s future, and the Mayor we want to see take us into our ‘new normal.’ With a record number of women and people of color expected to run, this could be the most diverse slate of candidates in Boston’s history. Voters are looking for a leader who can bring us together in the midst of these precarious and challenging times.”
The Sun’s Lauren Bennett contributed to reporting for this article.