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Charm And Doggedness Earn Walsh Loyalty

This article is more than 9 years old.

At a meeting of the Association of Minority Business Enterprise, at Darryl's Corner Bary & Kitchen in Roxbury, waiters bring out hot platters of fried chicken, but what people are eating up is Marty Walsh's story about how he got Charlotte Golar Richie, one of the African-American candidates and the only woman in the preliminary, to endorse him.

It's a story that shows how dogged Walsh can be.

After Golar Richie came in third in the Sept. 24 preliminary election, Walsh went to her house and they talked for a couple of hours.

"We went over a whole bunch of different things about what was important to Charlotte," Walsh says. "And then I asked her for her endorsement and she said she wasn't ready."

Marty Walsh, here canvassing earlier in the mayoral race, has received the backing of several of his former opponents. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Marty Walsh, here canvassing earlier in the mayoral race, has received the backing of several of his former opponents. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The crowd laughs.

"So I called her the next day," Walsh says. "And then I asked her if she'd be with me and she said she wasn't ready." The audience laughs again.

"So I called her the next day," Walsh says, eliciting more laughter. "And it was about — I don't know what time it was, it was 9 o'clock at night — and she goes, 'Can you come by my house?' I said, 'Absolutely.' "

Walsh said when he got there, Golar Richie had a list of 25 other issues they had to talk about. He was there until 1 a.m.

"When I had a 6 o'clock in the morning appointment," Walsh adds. "On the way out I said, I gave her a hug and said, 'Will you be with me?' She said, 'I'm not ready to be with you.' "

At this point the audience bursts out in its biggest laughter of the tale.

"And I'm not lying to you," Walsh says good-naturedly. "So this went on for a couple more days," he says to more laughter.

Finally, Golar Richie did endorse Walsh. With her endorsement and those of other former rivals, John Barros and Felix Arroyo, and the backing of U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, Walsh hopes to engage their supporters — many of whom live in Roxbury and the other parts of the city that separate his Dorchester from the West Roxbury of his rival, John Connolly.

The doggedness Walsh showed in winning over Golar Richie is part of his appeal.

Early Battles

"He was just a guy that I could count on when I needed something," says former Neighborhood House Charter School headmaster Kevin Andrews, who needed $1 million worth of renovation work for the school in Dorchester.

Walsh delivered half-a-million dollars worth of pro-bono work from union workers.

"These guys would come after their normal hours and work until 8, 9 o'clock at night to get this building ready for the kids," Andrews says. "And this was a charter school, by the way, a charter school, non-union."

Walsh started earning that kind of loyalty when he became a union laborer at the age of 21.

His parents emigrated from Ireland in the 1950s and he grew up in Dorchester. As a child, Walsh battled cancer for five years. He went to high school at Newman Prep, a private school in the Back Bay.

In his 20s, he had a new battle: alcohol. He started binge drinking. And then, at 28, he stopped drinking altogether, but he remains committed to helping others overcome addiction.

The year after he stopped drinking, he beat Martha Coakley to become a state representative. At night, he worked his way through Boston College, earning a BA in social science in 2009. At the same time, he rose up through the ranks of the laborers union and became the leader of the Boston Building Trades. He resigned the post this year to run for mayor. Walsh is 46 now. He has a longtime partner, Lorrie Higgins, who has a daughter.

On Education And Hiring Decisions

Walsh says he wants to turn Boston into a manufacturing center again. He explained how he would do that at a campaign stop in the South End last week.

"We have opportunities in the biotech industry with the manufacturing of devices," Walsh says.

In an interview at a Starbucks in the Financial District, Walsh also proposed that Boston's high schools include vocational programs specializing in one trade.

"We used to have a trade school in Boston," Walsh says. "We used to have a mechanical school in Boston. We used to have a sheet metal fabrication shop in schools. Not every school, I shouldn't say every school, because look at Boston Arts Academy and Latin School and those schools, I don't necessarily know if you need to focus towards trades, but put a variety of different options in schools."

Walsh also said the city should look at adding at least an hour, if not more, the length of the school day in Boston.

"I think there's opportunities here — we have to lengthen the school day with programming, deal with education," Walsh says. "Certainly we have the shortest school day, one of the shortest in the country, if not the shortest. "

But his rival, City Councilor John Connolly, said in a debate recently that Walsh supported the Boston Teachers Union contract that gave Boston the short school day that it has.

"I don't know where he got that," Walsh says. "It's certainly not true. I never made that statement, so I think that's kind of a figment of his imagination."

But at a Boston Teachers Union forum on Sept. 11, when candidates were asked if they would have voted for the contract, Walsh did raise his hand.

Despite all the endorsements and the union support, Walsh says he's made no deals to offer people jobs if elected.

"I've made it perfectly clear from the very beginning that I want to have the best, the most qualified people fill positions in City Hall," Walsh said. "I've received many endorsements in this election, and not one of the people who have endorsed me said: 'I'm looking for this. I'm looking for that.'

"In order to move Boston forward, we have to get the most qualified people, whether it's in a Cabinet-level position or someone who's going to be working in our Parks Department, or police officers protecting our streets, or somebody who's going to be working in development of our city, so I'm firmly going to base my hiring on the qualifications of people," he added.

After a lifetime of earning and showing loyalty, Walsh promises to steer clear of patronage.

He would get a chance to make good on that promise soon after coming into City Hall. The next mayor must start out by hiring a new police commissioner and a new superintendent of schools.

This article was originally published on October 28, 2013.

This program aired on October 28, 2013.

Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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