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Bill McGonagle, who was born into public housing and rose from janitor to the top of the Boston Housing Authority, has died. He was 67.
McGonagle ran the Boston Housing Authority for a decade and spent a total of 40 years at the agency before retiring this summer.
"I've had an interest in public housing and public housing advocacy literally from the day I was born," he told WBUR's Radio Boston in July. "And I've always had a desire to help people. I thought that the best way to accomplish that goal is by working on behalf of the poorest and most marginalized people in the city of Boston."
Tributes from public officials poured in Thursday.
Mayor Marty Walsh tweeted that McGonagle was a "valued colleague" and "one of my closest friends."
"I am heartbroken by his passing," Walsh wrote. "The legacy Billy has left on Boston is felt today and it will continue to be realized by our residents for decades to come."
City Council President Andrea Campbell tweeted that McGonagle was "the epitome of a public servant, deeply connected to those he served for 40 years at BHA, and unafraid to take on the tough challenges to make our public housing system more equitable and accessible."
"Our city owes him a debt of gratitude," City Councilor Kim Janey added on Twitter.
"Bill McGonagle was one of the finest public officials with whom I've served," City Councilor Matt O'Malley tweeted. "He literally touched tens of thousands of lives over a 40 year career and made housing in Boston safer, stronger, and more affordable."
Speaking to WBUR in July, McGonagle said he was amazed at how poor families in public housing were able to make do. And he said he hoped he was remembered as someone who helped.
"I hope my legacy is one of inclusion — someone who made a sincere effort to open up the public housing in the city to residents, applicants [and] those in need of housing of every racial and ethnic background," he said. "And that I empowered residents, listened to them and brought them to the table when it came time to make decisions."
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