BOSTON (CBS) – Lisa Hughes and David Wade sat down with WBZ-TV Security Analyst and former Boston police commissioner Ed Davis to discuss the legacy of Tom Menino.
Related Stories: Remembering Tom Menino
Let’s start by talking about the first time you met the mayor.
It was an interesting story, I was at a meeting at the Parkman House, the mayor’s residence, I was sitting up in front with Paul Evans, who was the police commissioner at the time. Somebody tapped me on the shoulder and I turned around, it was Mayor Menino. He said, “The guy back there told me to tell you something,” and he told me the story. So I went back to the guy afterwards and I said “Did you you know who that was?” and he said ‘Well, I didn’t know, he was just sitting in the back. I didn’t know who he was.’ The mayor was just delivering a message to me just like any other normal person would do. He did not stand on ceremony, he was a really regular guy.
So at the time, you were the chief in Lowell. And it sounds like you became close pretty quickly.
Yeah. Well the first day that I was here, the mayor took me on a whirlwind tour of the city. We hit every neighborhood, every neighborhood group; he introduced me to everybody he thought I needed to know. It was a very intense experience. We went from seven o’clock in the morning until ten o’clock at night, day after day after day until I had done the whole city. That’s the way he worked though, he was very, very dedicated to his job.
What did you see in him going into those neighborhoods? That must’ve been a very interesting experience, as you were new on the job and he was so intertwined in the lives of those people.
He knows everyone by name, he knows who their kids are and where their spouses work. He’s so plugged into the neighborhoods. It was just an incredible experience. That’s why, over the course of time I worked for him, he never called an issue “wrong.” He could tell you exactly the way an issue was going to break and how it was going to play out in the city and it was because of that deep knowledge of the individuals in the neighborhoods.
Photo Gallery: Remembering Mayor Tom Menino
He made a living out of not being “the fancy talker,” but was incredibly smart politically behind the scenes. He knew exactly which buttons to push.
He really did; he had a keen intellect. It wasn’t just politics, he was a very smart man. Because of the way he spoke, people often times would not understand that. But if you didn’t realize how smart he was, it was your mistake, it really was.
Let’s talk a little bit about what happened immediately after the Boston Marathon bombings. Because at that point, the mayor was in the hospital but he no longer wanted to be there. How did this play out?
I called him as soon as I got the phone calls, right after I called for backup from the different police agencies. I called the mayor and I told him what I knew, it was very limited, and I said I’d get back to him as soon as I get to the scene and make an assessment. I didn’t expect to see him leave the hospital, but within an hour he was at the command post being wheeled into the room and was with the governor and myself and all the other people responding, on top of everything.
What did he say when he got there?
He was a tough boss and if he didn’t like what you did he’d let you know right up front. That first encounter was, “Why’d you shut the Red Sox down?” We went back and forth about that, but the truth of the matter is he was incredibly dedicated and from a sick bed, pushed himself up, and was engaged in every bit of that thing from the minute he arrived at the scene.
He was the boss, but it sounds like through that terrible event, it sounds like you came together on a lot of issues that week. You both wanted the FBI to release the pictures; through that week, did you become close friends?
We were close friends long before that. That cemented our relationship, there’s no question. I’ll tell you this: I called that guy at six o’clock every morning, every day of the year, Christmas, New Year’s, his birthday, my birthday. At six a.m. I was on the phone with him, because he wanted to know what happened the night before, and of course I had to get up at five to find out what happened the night before. He was a dawn to dusk boss. He really was.
Watch: Ed Davis On Tom Menino – Part 1
With that kind of a friend, and someone who is so part of the city where you’re the police chief, what would say are the best and most valuable things you learned from him?
Always go to ground, always go to the people. He would not stay in his office; he made his career by being on the street talking to people. I did the same thing, watching him do that, it was so successful, it became a way of business, for me and the other cabinet members and team members that I worked with. We had a tremendous team, and he led that team and he led it with an iron fist. We would sit there every Wednesday morning at seven o’clock. And we’d often say, “Does it have to be seven o’clock?” but he wanted us there at 7. He wanted everybody to work as hard as he did and that’s exactly what happened.
What is your most humorous story about the mayor that speaks to who he was as a person?
There were 100 humorous stories, we had a lot of things that happened. I think the series of things that happened that really define his personality were on the tragedy that we had to manage. Walking in and up three stories into a tenement to talk to the mother of someone who had been murdered the day before. Talking to a family that couldn’t afford to bury a loved one and him raising the money to make that happen. There was a woman who helped us out with a very serious case on Geneva Avenue. She came to his office; she didn’t want to be recognized, so we didn’t invite anybody, she didn’t want to be known as someone working with the police. But she came to the office and we said thank you to her; during the course of that time she said that she was afraid to let her kids go out on the street. He could not let that happen. He rolled out every available resource to make that street safer because of the story she told him. That’s the kind of guy he was.
What is his legacy?
A profound change in the city. He was a neighborhood guy but he had an enormous effect on what happened downtown and the whole face of the city has changed. And all the economic development and building and the innovation center and all those things that happened with his partnership with Joe Fallon and the other people around town doing development, that’s all going to be a legacy. But the truth is, it’s his personal relationships that are going to make him the best mayor that we’ve ever had.
You mentioned he was a tough boss. Our own Jon Keller said he still has some “black and blues” from working with the mayor; if you didn’t get along with him on a subject, he let you know. Do you still have any of those “black and blues?”
Oh yeah, definitely. It was a dynamic relationship we had, there’s no question. But you know what, I’d much rather work with somebody who was completely honest and let you know exactly how he felt than trying to define what is needed and what should happen. If you did things right, you heard about it, which was great. If you did things wrong in his estimation, you heard about it twice as much and twice as loud. But, you know what? It works. It really works. It was a relationship that was built on mutual respect. We’d both be heard and at the end of the day, I think that the decisions that were made and the service that was given to the city was improved because of it. And I think that really is what makes all the difference.
Will we ever have another mayor like him?
Oh no, not like him. There will be other mayors, there will be mayors with long tenures, but he was a unique guy, I mean he really was a special guy and I’m very lucky to have had the experience that I had.
Watch: Ed Davis On Tom Menino – Part 2
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