Thomas Menino made it official on Thursday: At a Faneuil Hall speech, filled with local elected officials, Menino administration officials and neighborhood activists, the mayor said he will not be running for a sixth term.
“I’m back to a mayor schedule, but not a Menino schedule,” Menino said, in a reference to his recovery from a list of ailments that cut short a vacation with his wife last year and put him in the hospital for two months at the end of last year. “And I miss that.”
He wistfully recalled past visits Bowdoin Geneva every Christmas Eve, promising and delivering on a supermarket and shopping mall in Grove Hall, and reading to children in new libraries in Mattapan and Brighton.
Menino, who has served as mayor since 1993, said he had “no plans” to pick a successor. “I just ask that you choose someone who loves this city as much as I have,” he said.
He received several standing ovations from the crowd, which included Gov. Deval Patrick, interim Sen. Mo Cowan, Attorney General Martha Coakley, Treasurer Steve Grossman, and U.S. Reps. Stephen Lynch and Michael Capuano.
Potential contenders stayed away from statements about their intentions, citing their respect for Menino, but the chatter and clamor over the first open race for mayor in 30 years continued to build among activists and insiders.
The list of possible candidates who could join City Councillor At-Large John Connolly, the first serious candidate to declare a mayoral bid earlier this year, kept growing. Bill Walczak, the founder of the Codman Square Health Center and the former president of Carney Hospital, is entertaining a run for mayor.
Activists have been reaching out to Gov. Deval Patrick’s public safety chief, Andrea Cabral, and City Councillor At-Large Ayanna Pressley, to gauge their interest.
State Rep. Marty Walsh has said he is in if Menino decided against a sixth term. The list of possible candidates also includes Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley, City Council President Stephen Murphy, and City Councillors Tito Jackson, Rob Consalvo, Felix Arroyo, Charles Yancey and Michael Ross.
Conley, a former city councillor, worked on Menino’s first campaign for Hyde Park’s City Council seat in 1983 and emceed a recent Menino fundraiser in Jamaica Plain. “I honestly thought he was running for reelection,” Conley told reporters.
Conley said he plans to take the next few days to discuss any next steps with his family. “It’s a big decision for them, too,” he said.
As for the mayor, “He leaves this city better than he found it,” Conley said.
East Boston’s Bob Travaglini, the former state Senate president, remembered first meeting Menino during a special election in 1973. Menino called him early Wednesday evening.
“He’s been my best political friend for a long time,” Travaglini said outside Faneuil Hall. “I’m overjoyed that he will experience the luxury of leaving at the top of his game and on his own time.”
His 20-year tenure has set the bar high, Travaglini said, adding that there hasn’t been “a scent of corruption and he’s done everything fairly.”
Peter Meade, a Dorchester native who heads up the city’s redevelopment authority, said the mayor could have won another term easily.
But he noted the packed schedule and the high bar Menino had previously set. Meade recalled a dinner he and his wife went to with Menino and his wife several years ago. The Meninos dropped off the Meades, and the Meninos continued onto Bowdoin Geneva.
“Unless he could do the job that way, he didn’t want to continue,” Meade said.
Menino still has nine months left in his term. He met with his cabinet and staffers this morning, and the term “pedal to the metal” came up several times.
Menino joked that he already had at least one job offer, according to Meade: Clayton Turnbull, who opened Dunkin’ Donuts in Mattapan, called him and said there is an opening in January for a doughnut maker.
Fr. Jack Ahern, one of the Catholic priests who worked with Menino in the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood, said Menino was “part of the neighborhood.” “He was a champion of the poor,” Ahern said as he waited for the speech to get underway at Faneuil Hall.
“The pope retires, the mayor retires, what’s next?” Ahern added. “My world is completely different.”