Candidate Walsh: 'With a New Mayor Comes New Ideas'
An Interview with Boston Mayoral Candidate Marty Walsh
Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 23:10
Marty Walsh, BC’ 09, knows that he did not take the traditional route in life.
The son of Irish immigrants and a lifelong resident of Dorchester, Walsh followed his father into the trades after graduating from high school, working as a laborer at the Boston seaport. Rising through the ranks of his union, Laborers Local 223, Walsh gained experience working with city officials on large-scale construction projects and economic development initiatives, eventually becoming the head of the Building and Construction Trades Council of the Metropolitan District.
At the same time, Walsh established himself as an advocate for workers in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, first winning a seat representing the 13th Suffolk District in 1997. He has since been re-elected eight times.
While serving in the legislature, Walsh, 46, earned a degree from Boston College through night classes in the Woods College of Advancing Studies. Walsh recognized his time at the University as vital in shaping his career and outlook as a legislator. The opportunity to be in class with young people from diverse backgrounds helped him understand the different challenges that they faced.
“Being able to watch and learn from day students was a tremendous help,” Walsh said.
Walsh also pointed to BC’s central role in the city as a whole.
“BC is important to the fabric of Boston, the history of Boston, and the engine that drives Boston,” Walsh said. “I’m proud to say I graduated from Boston College.”
This November, Walsh hopes to become the fifth BC graduate to be elected mayor of Boston, vying to succeed longtime incumbent Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who announced this spring that he will not seek re-election for a record sixth term.
The field in the race for City Hall was narrowed from 12 candidates to two in a preliminary election held Sept. 24, from which Walsh emerged as the top vote-getter with 18.5 percent of the electorate. Following closely behind was the candidate Walsh will face in the final election, City Councilor John Connolly, BC Law ’01, who garnered 17.2 percent of votes.
With the election of either man, Boston will see a return to the city’s tradition of male, Irish-American mayors, a tradition broken for the first time since 1930 with the election of Menino—an Italian-American—in 1993.
Walsh, who said he was “fortunate enough to top the ticket on election day” in the preliminary, is now looking to spread his message to all of Boston’s diverse communities in order to emerge victorious after the final vote.
“The strength of the city is its people and its diversity,” Walsh said. “The next mayor needs to make sure everyone has the opportunity to be successful, and make sure Boston is not a city of ‘haves’ and ‘have not’s’.”
To accomplish this, Walsh pointed to several key aspects of his platform that he will try to highlight in the upcoming series of mayoral debates. The candidates will face off four times in the month leading up to the Nov. 5 election
Among these goals are some that will appeal to young Bostonians and college students, in particular. Increasing the supply of housing and making it accessible and affordable for college students and recent graduates is one of Walsh’s top focuses, as well as facilitating continued growth of the Boston job market. The job market is solid right now, Walsh said, but the city must continue to encourage innovative start-ups and venture capital projects to create and support job opportunities for young people.In general, Walsh emphasized the need to keep college students in Boston beyond their four years of undergraduate education.
“As mayor, I want to make sure all college students, whether they are from here or other places, see Boston as a place where [they] want to invest in [their] future after school,” Walsh said.
An additional facet of his plan to revitalize the city is expanding the hours of public transportation services. A central question, according to Walsh, is “how we can open up Boston and make it a longer day.”
He noted that Boston residents should have the opportunity to go out at later hours if they wish, but also acknowledged that some residential neighborhoods do not need to be open as late.
Walsh also intends to focus on education in the debates, stressing that every child should have access to quality schools. Education, Walsh said, is a key catalyst in solving the largest issues that plague our city, most importantly, poverty.
His life experiences—in the work force and the legislature—and deep understanding of the challenges that the people of Boston face are his strongest assets as a candidate, Walsh said.
Following in the legacy of Menino, he said, is a large responsibility, and the new mayor will be tasked with moving Boston in a new direction while building on the foundations Menino created.
Walsh said he doubts that the next mayor will serve for 20 years, but does not deny the importance of this year’s election in the city’s political landscape.
“This is the first time in 20 years that there will be an election for mayor with an open seat,” Walsh said. “With a new mayor comes new ideas, which will give the city a different feel.”