By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – In his retirement speech Thursday, Boston Mayor Tom Menino explained how he managed to personally meet half the residents of the city, an amazing fact documented by polls.

“If you want to meet half the people in our city,”” he said, “all you do is go to their homes, their jobs, where they raise their families and where they strive to improve their neighborhoods.”

This isn’t some rhetorical flourish, where Menino is saying he’s in all these places in spirit. He literally means you’ve got to personally visit and mingle with the people you’re governing, every day and evening, as much as you possibly can, if not 365 days a year, than at least 355.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

That is easier said than done.

It would, of course, be impossible for a president, who can’t go anywhere without a disruptive fuss that precludes any real chance of natural interaction with people, a major reason why presidents tend to become isolated and out of touch. It’s hard for members of Congress, because they’re not around as much, and governors, because they spend too much time in that minimum-security prison on Beacon Hill.

But mayors can, if they work at it, get out and mix with the people in a meaningful way.

Do it to the extent Menino does, and Ray Flynn before him, and people become comfortable enough with your presence to really tell you what’s going on, what they need from you, and what they’re not getting.

And if you do that work and do more listening than talking, you too can become a leader as successful as Tom Menino has been. That’s democracy in action.

If only we could figure out how to make it work that well across the board.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.


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