Boston’s changing leadership could bring nearly 200-year pattern to end

BOSTON — If you aren’t paying constant attention, you could lose track of who’s in and who’s out in Boston’s leadership.

William Gross, Boston’s first black police commissioner, is retiring from his role, effective Friday.

The announcement adds to a whirlwind of changes for a city in transition. Mayor Walsh’s imminent departure has opened the door for a potential free-for-all of candidates vying for his coveted position.

City Council President Kim Janey, who’s expected to take the reins in the interim, will be the first woman and black Bostonian to serve as Boston’s mayor.

The three candidates who have announced they’ll be running in November are also women of color – Andrea Campbell, Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George.

Though the pool of candidates will likely grow, the initial start presents a potential shift in Boston’s long history of electing white, male mayors.

That pattern dates back to 1822 when John Phillips served as Boston’s first mayor.

“I see this as a sign of progress. What we have now is an incredibly diverse city that is majority-minority,” said Tom Whalen, Political Historian and BU Professor. “Mayor Walsh will probably be the last Irish American to be sitting in that seat for a very long time if ever.”

Whalen told Boston 25 News that Boston’s mayorship comes with a great deal of authority.

“The Boston mayor has always had patronage, can get the jobs and make the connections,” explained Whalen. “In some ways, Boston’s mayor has had more political clout than the governor of Massachusetts.”

Before Mayor Walsh, Thomas Menino served as the city’s longest-running mayor.

Before Mayor Menino, Raymond Flynn was Boston’s mayor. Flynn was tapped by former President Bill Clinton in 1993 to become ambassador to the Vatican.

Flynn’s departure was followed by a crowded field of candidates. Some believe that scenario will be repeated leading up to November’s mayoral election.

Mayor Walsh’s exit brings another open-seat opportunity in a city where no incumbent has lost reelection in 72 years.

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