Christian | Nigerian | Urbanist | Photographer
Thomas Michael Menino was laid to rest on November 3, 2014 in Hyde Park a little more than a week after suspending his cancer treatments to spend his final days with his family. My feelings about his passing are nowhere as important as those of his family, friends, and mentees, but I am sad that I did not get the chance to know him as well as I wanted to.
I was actually scheduled to meet with him on October 1, but bad weather threw off his schedule and I was trapped in the limbo of trying to reschedule an appointment with a very busy and important person.
However, due to my persistence that day, I was able to catch a glimpse of him seated at his grand desk at the BU Initiative on Cities. I told everyone that I spoke to in the following days that it felt like his office at City Hall had been picked up and dropped into 75 Bay State Road. I was in business casual attire that day and I felt very underdressed. That was the last time I saw him in person.
My earliest memories of Mayor Menino were formed in my undergraduate years. I probably saw his name somewhere on the route to Logan Airport every time I had to fly out of state. By the time I graduated and was commuting into the city from North Quincy, I was convinced that that he had a massive ego. In case you may have failed to notice (or are legally blind), Mayor Menino’s name is everywhere. His name welcomed you to every Boston neighborhood, major public space, and transit hub. I’m convinced that Mayor Walsh will not be able to change the last of Mayor Menino’s signs until his last day in office. (I also have a theory that Boston’s mayors do this to keep their successors on their toes, but that’s an aside.)
I first met Mayor Menino in person on September 18, 2014 at an Initiative on Cities Seminar titled “The Open City: How Can Open Data Serve the Public Interest?” I got there late because I spent too much time at BU’s Sustainability Festival and by the time I arrived, I had to stand at the back of the room. I really had gone there to hear Nigel Jacob, co-founder of New Urban Mechanics (one of Mayor Menino’s innovative programs) and Dan O’Brien of the Boston Area Research Initiative, and seeing and hearing the original Urban Mechanic was icing on the cake. I remember that he shared his experiences during the 2013 Boston Marathon crisis and emphasized the need for open communication between city governments and city residents.
After the discussion was over, I sat in the back and waited for my opportunity, and then went up to introduce myself and shake his hand. I will never forget his baseball bat cane. I don’t exactly remember what we said, but I vividly recall that he gave me all of his attention even though it wasn’t easy for him to move around and he had to attend to other matters. So, you can understand why I could hardly keep it to myself when I found out that I was scheduled to meet with him and Katharine Lusk, the executive director of BU IoC.
Mayor Menino was by no means a perfect man, but his dedication to the City of Boston and its residents set him apart. In his last chapter, he expanded his focus to advocate for better governance and sustainable cities in the United States and beyond. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to meet him and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family and the other people who miss him.
What I tell people going into government is, you’re helping people, and that should be your first goal. You have to adjust to situations, so what you do still has meaning. I’d like young people to think about going back to government, and helping out — to get the “Me” generation to think about being an “Us” generation.
Mayor Thomas Michael Menino
This post originally appeared on Medium. I think it’s easier to read there.