At a luncheon last Thursday at Rino’s Place in East Boston someone asked former Boston Mayor and current US Secretary of Labor Martin Walsh if he ever dreamed he’d have a Presidential Cabinet position.
“Are you kidding?” laughed Walsh. “I never thought I’d be mayor.”
Walsh’s meteoric rise as an obscure state legislature to the White House in eight years wasn’t lost on those present at last week’s lunch in Eastie, which included longtime friends and supporters like former State Senator Anthony Petruccelli, who came up with Walsh in the House in the late 1990s, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center CEO, who Walsh appointed to Chair the Boston Public Health Commission and Joseph Ruggiiero III who, through their connection with the recovery community, was a very early supporter of Walsh when he ran for Mayor of Boston in 2013.
The Dorchester native and son of immigrant parents from Ireland, Walsh overcame many obstacles in life from childhood lymphoma to battling alcoholism in his teens to become Boston Mayor and now the man who oversees one of the most important and influential cabinet positions in the Biden Administration as the US recovers from the economic downturn and job loss caused by the COVID pandemic.
“It’s been great,” said Walsh. “I’ve learned so much since going down to Washington D.C.”
Since heading down to the Nation’s Capitol Walsh has been zigzagging the US with stops in nearly every state to meet with union workers, blue collar employees, job creators and industry specialists.
At the luncheon Walsh told a story of an eye opening experience at a West Virginia coal mine.
Walsh was invited down by Sen. Joe Manchin (R-West Virginia) and although the two don;t see eye to eye on many political topics, Walsh felt it was important to go and hear from the workers.
As Labor Secretary Walsh oversees the Mine Safety and Health Administration as well as the administration of benefits for coal miners disabled by black lung disease.
At the American Consolidated Natural Resources’ Golden Ridge Portal Mine near Wheeling, WV Walsh said he donned a bunch of safety equipment and was loaded into a mine elevator for the ride down to the train that would take Walsh and Manchin deep into the mine.
“You have a bunch of guys wedged into this little train for the 45 minute ride four miles into the mine,” said Walsh who likened the experience to a Disney ride. “These guys work hard and I came out of there with a different appreciation for the work they do. Growing up in Dorchester I never thought in a million years I’d be doing that.”
Walsh said the coalminers, some who said they are never thanked for the work they do, appreciated his visit and he got a better understanding of the industry and how West Virginia’s coal industry can someday transition to cleaner and more renewable energy that would create jobs in the economically depressed state.
Earlier this month, Walsh had the pleasure of recognizing the sacrifices and ceaseless efforts of frontline workers to protect the nation’s health and keep our country moving forward amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Walsh inducted Essential Workers of the Coronavirus Pandemic into the Labor Department’s Hall of Honor.
After lunch, Walsh took photos with the staff at Rino’s and talked with Eastie residents that recognized the former Boston Mayor as they passed on Saratoga Street.
However, Walsh made sure to leave Eastie with one important item–a to-go order of Rino’s famous lobster ravioli for his longtime girlfriend Lorrie Higgins.