Mayor Martin Walsh gave his final press conference as mayor of Boston on March 22, and headed off to Washington, D.C on Tuesday morning to begin his new role as US Secretary of Labor.
The Senate voted 68 to 29 to confirm Walsh’s position late Monday afternoon, after which he delivered his heartfelt final farewell to Bostonians.
Walsh reflected on his past seven years as Boston’s mayor, saying that “there is no other elected or appointed position where you are so closely in touch with the people you serve. It’s truly where democracy lies.”
He said he has frequently been in touch with Acting Mayor Kim Janey over the past two months, and said that “together the council president and myself and our teams have worked diligently to ensure a smooth transition.”
Janey tweeted on Monday evening, “Congratulations on your confirmation, Secretary Walsh. You are a proud son of Dorchester who will bring our city with you to the @USDOL. The working people of America will benefit greatly from your passion. Now, we look ahead to a new day—a new chapter—in Boston’s history.”
Janey made history by becoming the first Black person and first woman to lead the city.
“I am proud of what we’ve been able to do together over the last seven years in moving the city forward,” Walsh said at the press conference. During his term, Walsh said that almost 140,000 new jobs have been created in the city, Boston is “number one in the nation for building affordable housing,” major crime has been reduced, the graduation rate in Boston Public Schools has increased nine points, and a “new system to end homelessness was created.”
He added, “We tackle racial justice. We changed Boston’s reputation. We still have work to do.”
Walsh said he will be the “first to admit” that more work needs to be done, but he is confident that it will continue.
Also during Walsh’s administration, investments were made in new parks, libraries, community centers, fire stations, streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, and more, he said.
“We did all of this while managing our city finances responsibly…” Walsh said. Over his seven years as mayor, the city had an AAA bond rating each year.
He also said that “battling a global pandemic” was “not what anyone expected,” but ”in some ways, it was a blessing” and helped the city come together to help each other.
“As I told the team this morning, the journey doesn’t stop. The work of the city keeps going. Tomorrow morning, when there will be a new mayor in City Hall, the work needs to continue to move forward. The work will continue to be hard. But I’m confident that our public servants, our business community, and our residents will continue to rise up to the occasion,” Walsh said. “Boston, Massachusetts is the greatest city in the world.”
Walsh said he wanted to “thank every person who held a sign for me, made a phone call for me, put a bumper sticker on their car for me, that fought for me, that advocated for me; I want to thank all of you.” He also thanked those who “criticized” him, adding “that might have been criticism you were giving, but what it was for me is ‘we have to do better.’”
He also gave advice to the candidates running for mayor in the November election.
“Enjoy the race,” he said. “Have fun. Talk to everybody.”
However, “I will not be playing a role in the mayor’s race,” Walsh said. “It is not right for me to play a role in the mayor’s race, number one, and number two, the candidates that are running…I know them all personally. One worked for me, one grew up on my street, one’s a legislator, we served in the same body, I served with councilors as well, so it’s no place for me to be involved.”
Walsh also said he will not endorse any mayoral candidate.
Walsh said that he doesn’t “know if I can put a signature achievement” on his time in office, but “I’m really happy with our accomplishments in housing. We inherited a housing crisis in our city. I’m really happy with 2300 formerly homeless people living in a home today.”
He said he would leave his failures “for other people to criticize.”
Walsh said that “there’s definitely a feeling of work undone,” but “I think that your work is never done.” He said he would like to have built the Long Island Bridge, “but we’re not giving up on that one.”
Walsh also said that he was hoping to have the investigation on Dennis White, who was appointed police commissioner after William Gross’ retirement but was found to have domestic assault allegations against him, completed before leaving, but that did not happen.
He said that he is grateful that the investigation is “thorough” and he’s been in touch with Acting Mayor Janey about moving forward, adding that he is “confident” that the investigation will be finished “within the next couple of weeks.”
Walsh said “I’m proud of the accomplishments that my administration has done in the city, because it’s not my accomplishments, it’s the people I work with’s accomplishments and that’s honestly how I feel.”
He continued, “This has been a very very bittersweet last eight weeks. I have been very emotional in my office because I love the people I work with. They’re amazing. I love being mayor of the city I grew up in. I’m honored to have been called by President Biden to serve in his cabinet.
And I think, honestly, now thinking about it, I think I just try to get every single last second out of being mayor of the City of Boston…..then I can start focusing on the new gig.”
Several elected officials and mayoral candidates have issued statements on the mayoral transition, including City Councilor Andrea Campbell, John Barros, and State Rep. Jon Santiago.
“Congratulations to our new Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh. I look forward to working with Mayor Walsh in his new role to center working people as we build a strong, equitable recovery from this pandemic and for the future of the City of Boston,” Andrea Campbell said in a statement. “There’s so much I’ve been proud to work with Mayor Walsh on to address longstanding inequities in Boston, including establishing the Youth Development Fund, passing the Community Preservation Act, and most recently committing our City to historic policing reforms. I wish him the absolute best as he embarks on this new chapter.
It’s with excitement and joy that I also congratulate our Council President, now Acting-Mayor Kim Janey. This is a historic moment for our City, and absolutely the beginning of a new era of female leadership in Boston.”
In a statement, mayoral candidate John Barros, who worked as Walsh’s Chief of Economic Development for the past seven years, said “Marty Walsh is the right person at the right time to serve as United States Secretary of Labor. As millions of Americans struggle to recover from the devastating impacts of the pandemic, we now have a Secretary we can trust to advocate for the needs of working families across the nation.”
Jon Santiago said in a statement, “I have been proud to call Marty Walsh our mayor and my friend during his time in office. His leadership has been marked by a commitment to public service, an empowerment of working people and for those in recovery across the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Throughout a global pandemic, he’s guided our city with a steady hand, navigating immense challenges I look forward to working with him in the years ahead as he begins the work of advocating for working families nationwide alongside President Biden and Vice President Harris.”