Oct 30, 2014 4:42 PM
Kevin Landrigan: NH remembers the late Boston Mayor Tom Menino
The late Boston Mayor Tom Menino. He was a larger than life political figure, a throwback to the days of machine politics.
This son of a factory foreman did not graduate from college until he was middle age but became the city's longest-serving chief executive and president of the US Conference of Mayors.
New Hampshire's political elite heaped praise on Menino as a powerful man with a gentle touch in public and an affinity for the working class.
"He was just a simple man, a gentle man but a very powerful one who knew how to get things done,'' said former Manchester Mayor Bob Baines.
Surely, Baines should know. He was mayor of Manchester from 2000-06 during the zenith of Menino's towering figure in New England politics.
Baines recalled that initially the ownership of the Boston Red Sox didn't want Manchester to get a minor league baseball franchise. That's because its Fisher Cats, a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate, would compete for media and spectator attention with the Portland Sea Dogs, the Red Sox' Double A team.
When Baines told Menino that his campaign for Manchester didn't look good because the Red Sox could veto it, Baines said Menino called that unacceptable and swung into action. He called Sox executive Larry Lucchino and set up a much different session.
"When they met with me they said they need to come with a way to say yes and again it happened only because of Tom Menino, that relationship that was so fortunate to build with him, we can thank Tom today for having minor league baseball in Manchester so i have very fond memories of him both personally and professionally,'' Baines said.
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan said Menino was politically ahead of his time by coming out for legalizing same-sex marriage in Manchester. Menino took that activism far enough to oppose the location of a Chick Fil-A franchise in Boston because its ownership opposed marriage equality.
"He served for i think 20 years the longest serving mayor in Boston's history and during that time he showed that he wanted to include everyone and make his community a stronger and better community,'' Hassan said.
"He was an early fighter for marriage equality, showing great vision and foresight and I think people throughout the region are mourning his loss today.''
Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley said Menino could always be counted upon to financially support Democrats running for higher office from New Hampshire.
"He was dispensable to us and always went the extra mile," Buckley said.
In his memoir, ``Mayor for a New America,'' Menino said his decision to dispatch 100 of his key supporters helped put Hillary Clinton over the top to win New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary in 2008. Clinton lost the nomination to Barack Obama.
Notoriously thin-skinned according to his adversaries, Baines said he could have a rough exterior but used that to maximum effectiveness.
"I don't think he tried to intimidate people at all but he used that image of being a tough guy to be someone who got the most for his city,'' Baines said.
Menino's often fractured speaking style earned him the moniker of "Mumbles Menino'' from talk show hosts but Baines said his friend could be self-effacing.
"So few people in politics today can laugh at themselves; he often joked about it especially in private,'' Baines added. "In a way I think it endeared him to the average working man and woman even more.''