They couldn’t all fit inside the small Washington Street campaign office. So the group of a dozen or so black clergy and community members stepped outside and crowded around City Councillor At-Large John Connolly to announce their endorsement of him in the mayoral race.
Several of the ministers had been, at one point, critics of Connolly. When Connolly called on then-Superintendent Carol Johnson to step down due to her mishandling a personnel matter at the O’Bryant School, they leapt to her defense and laced into Connolly last year.
But yesterday several of the clergy members stood with Connolly, including Rev. Miniard Culpepper, who was briefly a mayoral candidate earlier this year, and Pastor William Dickerson, among others. Culpepper called state Rep. Marty Walsh a “good man.” “But I think for a time like this, we need John Connolly,” he said, citing Connolly’s decision to turn down $500,000 from an education reform group willing to spend outside money on his behalf in the preliminary.
Connolly said he was humbled by their support and noted that he was once a youth minister at Holy Name in West Roxbury. Speaking with reporters after the endorsement, Connolly said he had worked closely with the ministers on violence and education issues over the course of several years, and they had come to see “that I deeply care about the schools.”
“The Carol Johnson situation actually brought me closer with some of them and we... built a relationship over a course of time over that,” Connolly, an attorney and former teacher, added.
Culpepper had asked Connolly to sit down with Johnson, who stepped down earlier this year, shortly after Mayor Thomas Menino said he would not be running for a sixth term. “[Culpepper] asked if I was going to persist in calling for her resignation and I basically said after we had talked, like, I was not going to persist in it and that I’m going to try to work constructively with her,” Connolly said.
After the endorsement event outside Connolly’s campaign office in Roxbury, there was some initial disagreement over whether Connolly had pledged to appoint a superintendent of color if he won. “I just want to be clear on one statement there is that what I committed to is to make sure we have a diverse School Committee,” Connolly told reporters. “The search for a superintendent, I’d love to have a superintendent of color but it’s going to be a search for the best superintendent.”
Connolly added, “I want to see the most diverse cabinet in the history of Boston and I think we can do that, and I think we’ll be a stronger and better city for it.”
Standing with Rev. Dickerson and speaking to two reporters after the endorsement, Rev. Culpepper said Connolly committed to diversifying his staff and the police department. When asked if Connolly guaranteed that he would hire a superintendent of color, Dickerson said yes. “Yes, he wants to appoint a superintendent of color and also a police commissioner of color,” Dickerson said. “And so those things are important to us because Boston is a diverse city and our upper management ought to represent its diversity.”
Asked again by the Reporter to confirm Connolly specifically guaranteed that he would hire a superintendent of color, Dickerson said, “Young man, you must be new to this city. You don’t know who I am? If I say it, I mean it. It’s Dickerson, that’s how I roll.”
When the Reporter asked Culpepper whether Connolly had made a similar pledge to him, Culpepper said, “I wasn’t in that meeting.”
Soon after the endorsement event ended, Dickerson called both reporters to say that he had misspoken and that he was retracting his comments, and that Connolly did not specifically guarantee hiring a superintendent of color. Instead, Connolly had pledged to have a diverse police staff and Boston Public Schools staff, and search for the best possible candidate for superintendent, Dickerson said.