Above audio report by WBUR's Delores Handy, text report below by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom.
BOSTON — Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, a political giant who has led the city for 20 transformative years, won’t seek an unprecedented sixth term in office, he said Thursday.
"I'm here with the people I love to tell the city I love that I will leave the job that I love," Boston's longest-serving mayor said during a televised address from historic Faneuil Hall.
Earlier in the day, outside his Hyde Park home, Menino, a popular Democrat, told reporters it was "a very difficult decision."
"When you have something you really love, you lived 24/7 for the last 20 years, it's tough to say no, but there's a time and place for everything," Menino said outside his home.
During the speech, Menino said the city's neighborhoods are "thriving," and he lauded Boston's current openness. But, citing work left to be done in his final term, he said, "I have no intention of letting up just yet."
Following recent health issues, the 70-year-old mayor had faced a barrage of questions about his political intentions. Menino was in the hospital for two months last year, battling several ailments, including a respiratory infection and a fractured vertebra.
Earlier this month, as he was still weighing his decision, Menino told WBUR he didn't "want to be just a mayor sitting in a desk.”
Speculation about whether or not he would seek re-election had been constant. Just Monday, in an annual address, Menino proudly touted his administration’s economic and education accomplishments, but he also outlined several forward-looking proposals.
A Boston Globe poll released Wednesday found Menino with a 74 percent approval rating, but residents — most citing his recent health issues — were nearly divided over whether he should run for another term.
Then came Wednesday evening, when David Bernstein, who was a reporter for the now-closed Boston Phoenix, first reported Menino's decision via his Twitter account.
A Lasting Legacy
Menino built his reputation by focusing on the unglamorous nuts and bolts of running a major metropolitan city — fixing potholes, cleaning streets, even curbing the practice of saving a shoveled-out parking space by putting folding chairs or trash cans along the curb.
It's everyday commitments like those that earned him the nickname of the "Urban Mechanic."
“It's hard to imagine Boston without Tom Menino as mayor," Gov. Deval Patrick said in a statement. "No one loves this City and her people more, or is more excited about her future."
The Rev. Eugene Rivers, founder of Boston's TenPoint Coalition, said Menino is leaving behind an amazing legacy.
"There is no politician, black or white, that worked harder than Thomas Michael Menino," Rivers said. "If there is a seven-day week, Tommy worked nine days."
Dorothy Gates, a Dorchester resident who works at a hair salon near City Hall, said she's going to miss the mayor.
"He’s been around for so long," Gates said. "He’s always walking around the neighborhoods. Everybody knows him as if he was a next-door neighbor."
Menino also built a reputation for creating an impressive political machine that handily defeated challengers.
Boston City Councilor John Connolly announced his mayoral candidacy last month, regardless of Menino's decision. The Globe poll found Menino with a significant lead over Connolly in a hypothetical match-up.
"My initial reaction is to thank Mayor Menino for 20 years of incredible service to this city, and giving his heart and soul to this city and touching the lives of thousands of Bostonians, including myself." Connolly told WBUR's Bob Oakes Thursday morning.
Longtime Boston City Councilor Charles Yancey expects a crowded field in the race.
"I think virtually every elected official in the city of Boston has to take a look at it," Yancey said. "Given the history of this city, I expect at least a half dozen people will be announcing."
Dorchester state Rep. Martin Walsh, for one, told the Globe recently he would "absolutely" run if Menino steps aside. But he said Thursday it's not the right time to discuss his future.
During his address Thursday, Menino said he won't take sides on a successor, but he asked the audience to "choose someone who loves this city as much as I do."
The Past Two Decades
Menino became acting mayor after his predecessor, Raymond Flynn, left office in 1993 after being named ambassador to the Vatican. Menino, then president of the City Council, was automatically elevated to the mayor's job.
The circumstances prompted some critics to label him the "accidental mayor," a charge the sometimes-thin-skinned Menino was quick to reject. But he was elected mayor in his own right in November 1993 and won re-election by wide margins in 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2009.
The city's previous longest serving mayor, the late Kevin White, was in office for four terms, from 1968 to 1984.
Menino's longevity also exceeded the legendary Mayor James Michael Curley, who also served four terms, but not consecutively.
With reporting by WBUR and The Associated Press; compiled by Benjamin Swasey
This article was originally published on March 27, 2013.
This program aired on March 27, 2013.