Today the City of Boston lost Mayor Tom Menino, who served as mayor from 1993 to January of this year, the longest-serving mayor in the history of Boston. New Profit Partner Eliza Greenberg worked closely with Mayor Menino for nine years before she joined us at New Profit. Here, she reflects on that experience...
I loved Mayor Menino. He was a progressive wrapped in a traditional package with an unparalled moral compass. He loved new ideas, he loved problem solving, he loved shaking things up and most of all, he loved people. And he made his #1 job, clearing obstacles to serving the City’s most vulnerable populations.
Mayor Menino put people first and by people, I mean my people – the homeless, the hungry, the elderly, the marginalized. He was drawn to them and would rather be at Harborview Camp, a shelter or a senior center than practically anywhere else in the world. He had a personal connection to and investment in the lives of the underserved in our city. He spent most of his time out in the communities because he firmly believed that he couldn’t set a vision without understanding what each of his constituents saw out their own window.
It was an honor and a joy to serve a leader who was not only willing, but gleeful, to spend his political capital to fight for what he believed in. I think he could at times be underestimated for the true progressive he was because of his trappings. There is a reason why Massachusetts was the first state to legalize gay marriage, and a reason that Boston has such a high percentage of homeless set aside units, and a reason that Boston is the anchor, with New York, of Mayor’s Against Illegal Guns. That reason is Mayor Menino.
Many of my most special moments have been with and because of Mayor Menino. None so special, perhaps as watching President Obama’s 2008 Inauguration with the Mayor at the Strand Theater in Dorchester with 500 local seniors. Mayor Menino could have been anywhere he wanted that day, not the least of which was at the Inauguration itself with all the dignitaries and luminaries. But he chose to be here. He told me that he wanted to be with people like him, who had waited their whole lives to see this day a like this.
Mayor Menino loved people and the people loved him back. Today we have lost a friend, a champion and a moral compass. Today, we lost The People’s Mayor.
Eliza served in Mayor Menino's administration in a variety of roles including Commissioner of Elderly Affairs, Executive Director of the Emergency Shelter Commission, and the Human Services Leadership Team. As the Commissioner of Elderly Affairs, she oversaw a staff of 80 to lead all elder related operations in Boston and aspired to touch every one of the 80,000 elders to ensure they had access to relevant opportunities and benefits. Similarly, in her role as the Executive Director of the Emergency Shelter Commission, she worked to ensure that no resident would go hungry or homeless in the City of Boston. As part of a larger team, Eliza had the privilege to work on many cross-departmental citywide initiatives addressing youth violence, family economic self-sufficiency, and community capacity building. In partnership with her city colleagues, she helped invent and lead ground breaking initiatives like the Circle of Promise, an effort to remove all barriers to student achievement in Boston’s turnaround schools.