From Franklin Field projects to City Hall

By 
Patrick McGroarty and Bill Forry
Jan. 2, 2007

Newly elected City Council President Maureen Feeney says she knows it will take time to adjust to the new role, added responsibility, and changing expectations that come with her new post.

"Yesterday was hectic &endash; today it became real," she said in an interview from her City Hall office on Tuesday afternoon. She's hoping that reality will be one of new and exciting challenges in her 13-year career on the council, and bring new notoriety to the third district that she loves.

"The council presidency comes with additional responsibilities, and additional leverage. Obviously the goal will continue to be to enhance the lives of the people I represent."

In a sense, it's long way to the office of the council president from her humble beginnings in the Franklin Field projects.

Feeney, 58, was the youngest born into to the Irish Catholic Keaveny clan, which raised seven children in a one bathroom apartment in the Franklin Field Housing project. Maureen attended Notre Dame Academy, but the greatest education was in the home, where Mrs. Keaveny taught her children love of God, country, and politics.

"Looking back… I recognize how valuable, and what a difference that's made in my life...It was a very enriched environment," Feeney told the Reporter in 1997.

Maureen began her own natural progression into the world of campaigning as a volunteer for Mayor Collins. From there, more campaigns followed. Maureen and her husband, Larry Feeney, were so committed to Bob Quinn's 1972 bid for governor that they pledged to postpone their own wedding if the Dorchester man won the primary. Instead, Quinn fell to Michael Dukakis and the Feeney's made their appointment at the altar.

The Feeney's also fell in love with St. Brendan's parish and moved into a home on Milton Street that same year. Within a few years, Maureen and Larry welcomed their first child, Matthew, and Maureen began her career as a full time mother and all-purpose volunteer.

Daughter Kaitlin joined the family in 1986, and that year, Maureen was enlisted by neighbor Jack Garland to run his campaign for the new district city council seat. Feeney won an admirer in his opponent Jim Byrne, who asked the St. Brendan's mother to join his staff part time as his community liaison after he won that fall.

"Little did I know how big of a decision it would be," said Feeney.

Feeney quickly became a star on the civic circuit, criss-crossing the district on behalf of Councillor Byrne. It was a crash course in civic organizing and government's role in the community.

If joining Byrne's staff was a turning point for Feeney, then her decision to run herself -upon Byrne's departure in 1993- was the defining moment. For Feeney the transition to candidate was difficult. In fact, she says that despite her 49 percent victory in the six-person race that year, she did not complete the transition until much later. But, despite her personal qualms- and two unsuccessful bids for State Senate- Feeney's base in District Three and her work ethic have never been in question.

This month, she's hoping her transition to the council podium will be a seamless one. When asked whether challenging the mayor, who she considers a personal and political friend, will be difficult, she pledges to stand up for the needs of her colleagues and constituents. When asked whether she's considered one day running for mayor, she defers to bit of political wisdom:

"Don't anticipate," she said. "Never in a million years would I have thought that I would some day run for office. When you anticipate, you forget what you were elected to do."