By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) — Marty, we hardly knew ye.

Actually, we got to know the outgoing mayor of Boston pretty well over his seven year run in City Hall, not to mention his nine terms as a state representative. And his performance in office aside, to know Walsh was to like him.

Read: Biden Chooses Walsh As Labor Secretary

If you watch even a part of the long Frederick Wiseman documentary about the Walsh administration, “City Hall,” you will get a taste of what Walsh is all about. A recovering alcoholic who has quietly served as an “angel” guiding others through the post-rehab process, the sincerity of Walsh’s commitment to helping people is palpable. Like his predecessor Tom Menino, this is rarely expressed in terms of sweeping policy visions, although Walsh dabbled a bit more in those as mayor than Menino ever did. Instead, it’s nitty-gritty details that animate him; witness the scene in “City Hall” when Walsh lectures a cafeteria full of Roxbury elders about how to avoid being taken by phone scammers.

“Ohmigawd,” Walsh exclaimed when I asked him a few months into his first term what the biggest difference was between serving as mayor and state rep. “Up there [on Beacon Hill], you might make a half-dozen tough decisions a year. Here, you do that before lunch.”

Walsh didn’t always ace the test as mayor; the economic development debacles of the Boston Olympics bid and the Grand Prix race were embarrassing flops, and improving the city schools have proven to be as tough a haul for him as for previous mayors. But he walks away from the 2021 race as a heavy favorite to win a third term, with sky-high approval ratings across all racial, demographic and neighborhood boundaries.

Speaking of the race, hold onto your hat. Andrea Campbell and Michelle Wu are going to have plenty of company soon. And just as Walsh took a page out of the Menino playbook by trying to keep the exhausting schedule that was the later mayor’s trademark, Acting Mayor Kim Janey would be well-advised to review the clippings from Menino’s successful leveraging of the substitute gig into election in his own right in 1993.

Jon Keller