Thomas Michael Menino was born on December 27, 1942, to Susan and Carl Menino. The lifelong Hyde Park resident who went on to confer with presidents, meet with royalty, travel the world, and greatly expand his reach and influence, remained rooted in his hometown.
A 1960 graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Tom Menino earned an associate degree from Chamberlayne Junior College in 1963, and, while a Boston City Councillor, a Bachelor of Arts in Community Planning from the University of Massachusetts Boston in 1988. While in office, Mayor Menino received several honorary degrees, including from Harvard University and Boston University. But his fondest memory of higher education was of doing homework alongside his daughter, Susan, while they were both completing their undergraduate degrees.
Tom Menino was elected to the Boston City Council in 1983, serving as the new District V’s first City Councillor. Overwhelmingly elected five times to the Boston City Council and then five times as Mayor, Tom Menino was the longest serving and most recognizable mayor in Boston’s history. Bostonians, regardless of race, income, or profession, felt they had a friend in Tom Menino—someone who “got” their issues and concerns. For neighborhood residents, he was the “urban mechanic”; for teachers and parents, the “Education Mayor.” Environmentalists hailed him as the “Green Mayor.” And many knew him simply as Tommy.
He was accessible. He listened with his heart. And he responded.
Believing that government should be about helping people, Tom Menino spent a lifetime building a better city for its 620,000 residents, its commuters, and its visitors. His people-focused approach defined his administration and produced remarkable results. Under his leadership, Boston Public Schools were nationally recognized, with schools that are now over-chosen. He invested millions of dollars in Boston’s neighborhoods and local Main Streets, strengthening communities and empowering local merchants. He focused on public health and environmental sustainability to make Boston a healthier and more livable city. And he kept the city’s economic outlook healthy also, leaving office with an AAA credit rating. He opened the Seaport Waterfront and Innovation District as a breeding ground for technological advances, and improved constituent services by instituting state- of-the-art tools and services. As co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Tom Menino led a national effort for gun reforms and spearheaded a drastic reduction of crime in Boston. The first Italian Mayor of Boston made the diversity of Boston a true strength, welcoming immigrants, demanding equality for all, and celebrating the different cultures and traditions that enliven Boston today.
He took tough stands. Early in his tenure, Mayor Menino refused to march in South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade because gays and lesbians were not included—and then, a few years later, hosted the state’s first wedding celebrations for gay couples. Despite opposition, he fought to open Boston Medical Center, today a thriving hospital in the heart of the city. And in a few weeks, the former Ferdinand Building in Dudley Square will open as a multiservice center—a testament to Tom Menino’s tenacity and his staunch commitment to enhance all Boston neighborhoods.
Tom Menino did all this big stuff, but he did the small and the not-so-small stuff, too. He resurrected the Frog Pond, counted the homeless and found them beds, opened the city’s first Office of New Bostonians to welcome those new to the city. He started a summer camp for middle school children, fundraised for the city’s scholarship fund, and each year gave awards to students from every Boston Public School. To ensure young people had a voice in city government, he created the Mayor’s Youth Council and the ONEin3 Initiative, now models for other communities. He launched rolling rallies to celebrate champion- ships. He started a vibrant bike program and fixed up schoolyards. Every December, Mayor Menino held a neighborhood holiday trolley tour and walked the streets of Bowdoin-Geneva, and each spring, hosted mothers’ breakfasts in local parks. He drove around the city, scouting potholes, graffiti, and light outages—and getting them fixed. His home phone number was listed and he would often respond to constituent calls late into the night. Over half of Boston’s residents claim to have met Tom Menino.
Following his final term in January 2014, Mayor Menino joined Boston University to serve as Co-Director of the newly founded Initiative on Cities, where he continued to help mayors and community leaders make cities safer, more prosperous, and more sustainable. He remained active in causes he cared deeply about, including the Boston Scholar Athletes and the One Fund Boston.
Tom Menino and his wife, the former Angela Faletra, have been the proud and devoted parents of Susan(and her husband, William), and Thomas, Jr. (and his wife, Lisa),and grandparents to six much-loved grandchildren, Giulia, Samantha, Will, Olivia, Taylor, and Thomas, III.
Thomas M. Menino, Boston’s 53rd Mayor, devoted himself to the job he loved for 20 years, 5 months, and 25 days. His legacy will not be assessed in time, but by the high bar he set for public servants, against which mayors everywhere will be measured.