|VP Joe Biden pictured with new Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (Credit: @marty_walsh)|
If there is a politician more comfortable in his skin than newly elected Boston mayor Marty Walsh I have yet to meet him.
He strolled into our Boston event at Faneuil Hall, where we were honoring the Irish heroes of both the Boston bombing and the Sandy Hook massacre, as just one of the crowd.
He entered by the back stairs, no security or advance men rushing ahead, no crowds held back to “make way for the mayor”.
IrishCentral and the Irish Emigrant newspaper, our print edition in Boston published by Connell Gallagher, had decided to honor Boston Marathon bombing and Sandy Hook heroes this year. The mayor-elect dropping in was a very welcome addition to our evening.
He soon made clear he would not have missed it. These were his people. He sat down for a brief interview with me, with no handers, no set topics, nor any agenda. Nobody brushed his hair or applied make-up as we were taping.
He has authenticity written all over him, the kid from Dorchester who put together an extraordinary coalition of Irish and minorities to win the election.
Case in point, when Joe Biden mistakenly called the wrong Marty Walsh after election night, Walsh’s response was to poke a little fun, tweeting a photo of him with the VP taken in Boston some time back. 'How could he forget me?' was the unspoken tease.
This is a man who survived childhood cancer, alcoholism, a minor bullet wound in a drive by shooting. This guy has perspective. This is Joe Friday, “just the facts” man as mayor.
On this night there was no security, no advance men, just a local boy who had done good mixing with a few hundred of his neighbors.
He is down to earth. He eats breakfast most days in McKenna’s cafe, in Savin Hill, near his home where the dinner special is $4.75. This is no fancy pants Bloomberg-type mayor.
As he pointed out it was his first event as mayor-elect and it was clear that the presence of so many Irish supporters buoyed him. “I recognize half of ye from the campaign trail,” he said.
“We’ve come a long way.”
I kidded him that he should run for mayor of Connemara as the Galway papers back home had headlined “Connemara man wins mayoral race…” after the election.
Maybe I was only half-kidding. There were posters for Marty Walsh, son of Mary and John, all over Connemara, some in Gaelic. He even answered a question from Irish radio in Gaelic.
He talked about his immigrant parents and the values they gave him, about the Irish who were there for him during his long struggles with cancer and alcoholism. He knows perfectly well whose shoulders he is standing on.
He also made clear he would be a champion of immigration reform at national and state level. As a state senator he had introduced legislation to allow undocumented immigrants to hold driver’s licenses. As a proud son of immigrants Marty Walsh knows how critical it is to allow immigrants to flourish.
There was one heroic family there to meet him on the night. Bill and Denise Richard made their first public outing since losing their beloved son Martin and seeing their darling daughter Jane cruelly lose a leg.
We were deeply honored by their presence. They came out, they told me, because they wanted to thank the first responders we were honoring. Their very presence made the night worthwhile.
Marty Walsh met with them and in a sign of the man’s priorities refused to have any photos taken in case it looked like exploitation.
I will write about the Heroes of New England we honored separately, but the Richard family are true American heroes.
And Marty Walsh will make a helluva mayor - and perhaps beyond!