Big Freddy was sitting there grinning when I joined him for our weekly get together.
“You won some place,” I said as I wedged into my side of the booth.
“Life is good,” Freddy said. “Menino’s leaving City Hall which is smart because of his health, and it begins to look like Ed Markey’s not a sure bet for what was Kerry’s Senate seat. This is going to be a very interesting year.”
“You’re happy that Menino’s retiring?” I asked.
“For him? You bet. He’s put heart and soul into this job for 20 years. That’s a working lifetime in any major city. Boston has as many parts and problems as any, and he’s been on top of them all.
“There comes a time when the wear and tear takes over and there’s nothing sadder when somebody past their prime is still trying to do what they’ve been doing,” Freddy said.
“He did very well for Boston,” I said.
“No question,” Freddy said. “It’s not easy in any city. Especially for mayors. There’s no one to pass the buck to, but doing it in and for a capital city as complex as Boston?
“Lots of wear and tear,” I said.
“For mayors almost everywhere,” Freddy said. “Big cities, small ones. Doesn’t matter. Mayors have to live where they work. They’re on the pin all the time.
“It’s not like those we send to Congress. We see them during their campaigns. If they win, it’s off they go and our daily routines taken over unless something happens we need them for, which mostly their staffs deal with.
“Some spend lifetimes with staffs keeping them in touch with their home licks. Kennedy was excellent with that. It freed him up to be as great as he was. Seniority has its benefits in Washington and back home.”
“Markey has 36 years of it,” I said.
“In the House,” Freddy said. “Took care of his home lick, and he’s done very well for himself because seniority has its benefits. Spend that long in Washington, you don’t just go with the flow, you get to broaden your horizons.”
“Which Steve Lynch hasn’t had anything like the time to do that,” I said.
“But not just that,” Freddy said. “He’s not been a go along to get along sure party vote no matter what. That’s no surprise. He’s no Johnny come lately in Massachusetts politics and he’s not going to be a pushover in Washington.”
“But there are prices to be paid for that.” I said. “Markey doesn’t have that problem, and he has a lot more experience.”
“His bargaining power in the House has been considerable because of his seniority,” Freddy said. “ If he wins the Senate race, it won’t be like he’s a greenhorn with no clout, but he wouldn’t have what he’s had in the House until he earned it.”
“That race will take a back seat to Boston’s mayor’s race,” I said.
“The day to day coverage of that is going to put a lot of hay in the barn,” Freddy said. “Voting won’t be state wide, but interest will better I think than the senate campaign.”
“Boston’s more than our state’s capital. In one way or another what happens in sports, business, services, politics; whatever connected to it is going to matter, somehow, border to border.
“The Boston Menino took over from Ray Flynn is as different as the one Flynn took over from Kevin White. Menino’s been dealing with the changes for twenty years, and he hasn’t wasted one of them. The ordinary guy who mumbles as much as he does wouldn’t get to first base. But he’s no ordinary guy, and he sure isn’t an ordinary mayor. He’s as much for the city’s history books on the positive side as the other great ones have been.
“Going out on top sets the stage for the next mayor. All things considered, whoever gets to build on that will have their hands full if they hope to make their own marks something as good for the history books.”
Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and a staff columnist.