The late Mayor Thomas Menino’s legacy can be seen throughout East Boston but the three men that now lead the neighborhood said they owe a debt of gratitude to the man that inspired them to be better public servants.
City Councilor Sal LaMattina, Sen. Anthony Petruccelli and Rep. Carlo Basile have all had close working relationships with Menino during their political careers.
LaMattina who first met Menino 27 years ago at City Hall when he was a regular fixture in then District Councilor Robert Travaglini’s office. Menino would always joke that you went to Travaglini’s office for food and cigars and his office to get things done.
“We’d always hang out in Travaglini’s office because it was the ‘fun’ office and I got to know Mayor Menino and we soon became friends,” said LaMattina.
When LaMattina was thinking about running for City Council after Travaglini was elected to the Senate in 1992, he decided against it and quickly became Menino’s East Boston coordinator for his campaign here. It was during this time LaMattina met future Sen. Anthony Petruccelli, a recent University of Rochester student that grew up in a working class family in Jeffries Point.
Petruccelli, who was taken under the wing of Menino’s chief political operative in the neighborhood Albert ‘Junior’ Lombardi, was a family friend of the Lombardis.
Petruccelli became Menino’s East Boston liaison and a friend of LaMattina and, along with Menino and Lombardi a political tour de force was established in Eastie.
Menino saw something in Petruccelli and put him in the hands of his trusted allies in Eastie. In 1999 they ran Petruccelli against Rep. Emmanuel “Gus” Serra’s former Chief of Staff Richard Lynds during a special election that June. Petruccelli was victorious in the election and was on his way to a stella political career.
For his part, LaMattina went to work as Menino’s director of operations for the city’s Department of Transportation after a stint working on the Central Artery’s Big Dig team.
In 2006 when former City Councilor Paul Scapicchio stepped down, LaMattina immediately sought the advice of Menino.
“He was one of first conversations I had,” said LaMattina. “I was concerned that if I ran and won my relationship and friendship with him would change and I did want to do anything to jeopardize that.”
LaMattina said that from day one he was a confident, advisor and mentor throughout the campaign.
“I remember one conversation when he said that I had East Boston locked up and I needed to go over to the North End and call everyone I knew for support,” said LaMattina. “In the end he was right. The election was close and the North End was the deciding factor.”
On election night, Menino stayed in the background and when LaMattina tried to call him up he told the newly elected councilor “this is your night”.
“Once I got into office my fear about our relationship would change was unfounded and we grew closer and closer,” said LaMattina. “I was one of the few Councilors that could barge into his office unannounced and we’d spend long days during snowstorms talking politics, the communities and, of course, eating food from East Boston–which he loved as we all know.”
In the end LaMattina said Menino really loved Eastie.
“He treated us like we were his own neighborhood,” said LaMattina. “He took care of the neighborhood because it was one of his favorite neighborhoods and he loved the people here, loved being here and had a passion to make it one of the best in the city.”
Petruccelli who has said numerous times he owes his political career and life as a public servant to the example Menino set and the encouragement he gave him along the way.
“Words cannot express how saddened I am by the loss of Mayor Menino,” said Petruccelli. “Our community was always on his mind, he loved East Boston and he showed it every day he was our mayor. The East Boston Greenway, the Early Education Center, the Hope VI Project that revitalized Maverick Gardens, East Boston Stadium, the gym at East Boston High School, the new Library. These are just a few of the many projects Mayor Menino brought to our neighborhood. When he first became Mayor, he created the Main Streets program for business districts and he made East Boston one of the first in the entire city of Boston. Mayor Menino was in our neighborhood all of the time. He was at our block parties, visited our schools and loved eating in our restaurants. Even for the brief time after his retirement, he always took time to visit.”
Personally, Petruccelli said, Mayor Menino has meant more to him and his family than people could possibly imagine.
“I am so blessed to serve as the State Senator for the First Suffolk and Middlesex District,” he said. “While I am not minimizing the efforts of so many that have helped me to get where I am in politics, the reality is that if Mayor Menino did not take a chance on me and hire me to work in his office of Neighborhood Services in 1996 then I would not be a State Senator today. He gave me my start and always gave me the best advice and encouragement. Working for him will always be one of my greatest honors and experiences of my lifetime and I will always cherish the times we spent together.”
Basile, who was a on the other side of a campaign when he took on the Menino aide Jeff Drago in 2007 state representative election quickly became a Menino ally.
“He taught me a lot when I first got into office,” he said. “Most of all he taught me how to care for people because he always said that was the business of politics was about. I admire all he did for me and my family over the years and more importantly all he did for East Boston. I had the pleasure of dinning with him a few weeks before he died at one of his favorite places to eat in East Boston. He told me to stick to my guns, follow my heart and my gut and always put my family first. That’s how he lived his life and it a lesson I think all of us that represent East Boston take to heart and try and emulate.”
Mayor Thomas Menino and his wife, Angela, pose with Sen. Anthony Petruccelli and City Councilor Sal LaMattina. Menino is credited with launching the Eastie elected officials’ political careers.