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In Jamaica Plain, city residents react to Mayor Menino's decision not to run again

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  March 29, 2013 11:56 AM

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Boston residents walking along Centre Street in Jamaica Plain reflected on the Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s tenure and his decision not to seek a sixth term.

Most interviewed on Thursday said they respect Menino and that he has done a good job leading the city for the past 20 years. They said they will be sad to see him go, but they trust he made the right decision for both the city and for his own personal reasons, namely his health.

A Boston Globe poll in 2009 found that about 57 percent of Boston residents said they have met Menino.

Of the six people who agreed to comment in JP on Thursday afternoon, four said they had met Menino in person; some had met him several times.

One of those who had not met the mayor moved to Boston two years ago; the other moved to the city about seven months ago.

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Lifelong Boston resident Eddie Johnson was about eight months old when Thomas M. Menino became mayor.

The 20-year-old was shocked Thursday to hear that the only mayor he’s ever known will soon relinquish his throne.

“Wow. That’s crazy,” he said, while walking along Centre Street in Jamaica Plain.

After taking a moment to let the news soak in, Johnson said he was sad, but should have seen it coming.

“It’s been no secret he’s been having health issues,” he said. “If he feels he can’t continue at the same capacity, then he should step down.”

Johnson lives in Hyde Park and is a student at Roxbury Community College. Like many Bostonians, he said he has met the Menino in person.

“I think he was a pretty good mayor,” he said. “You never see someone with someone with so much consistency over such a long period of time. He had more positive effects than negative effects.”

Johnson said that most politicians make promises to help the middle and lower classes, but once elected, they primarily help the rich.

Johnson said that while Menino was not perfect in that regard, “he was about as honest as he could be.”

“It will be hard to find [a replacement]. He’s set the bar so high for so long,” Johnson said.

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Paul Sedgwick, 52, moved to Boston and began teaching theater classes in the city’s public school system the year Menino took office.

The Jamaica Plain resident said he has voted for Menino all five times he has been on the mayoral ballot.

Citing Menino’s recent health woes, he said he thinks the decision not to run again was the right one.

“I think he’s done a good job just making Boston a unified city,” he said. “There’s a family-like atmosphere.”

Sedgwick taught at the Hennigan Elementary School for 17 years before relocating a couple of years ago to the Rodgers Middle School in Hyde Park. He said he has shook the mayor’s hand about a dozen times at various events.

“He loves to meet the people he serves and he’s tried to serve all of the neighborhoods equally,” he said.

Sedgwick said he’s enjoyed the results of Menino’s time in office and has agreed with his agenda and approach most of the time.

Though, “sometimes the amount of power he’s had and has used has been a little excessive,” he said. “He maybe could have been more open to people with different opinions.”

Asked who he thinks might be the next mayor, Sedgwick sighed, paused and shrugged.

“Whoever Mayor Menino says he likes I guess,” he said.

Sedgwick said Menino’s departure is both sad and exciting, but he has few concerns about the upcoming change in Boston’s leadership.

“I think [Menino] has so much in place, it would take years for anyone to undo,” he said.

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Tamara McKerchie, 29, moved to Boston two years ago.

Pushing a stroller carrying her 7-month-old daughter Ophelia down Centre Street, she said she was somewhat surprised but also relatively indifferent to the news.

“I’m not too concerned either way,” she said. “It’s probably a good thing that he won’t run again. He was doing a good job, but it’s probably time now.

McKerchie, a Jamaica Plain resident who works in sales, said she liked that the mayor has supported urban agriculture, but said she’s never met him and knew little else about his work.

“I can’t understand anything he says,” she said.

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Chris Luiso, 45, moved to Boston from Florida in September.

“One of the reasons I moved here is because the city’s thriving economically because of Menino,” he said. “I’m kind of sad and a little worried to see he’s leaving.”

“Somebody’s got big shoes to fill,” he added, before hopping on an MBTA Route 39 bus.

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Nayda Paz, 47, of Roxbury, said Menino has done a good job overall, but now it is probably best that he takes a break.

“He needs to relax,” she said inside an auto parts shop in the Hyde Square area of Jamaica Plain.

“He’s worked really hard and done a lot for things for the neighborhoods,” she said.

Paz, who has lived in Boston since she was a teenager, said she Menino has done a relatively good job to try to make housing in Boston more affordable and to crackdown on landlords who do not treat their properties or tenants well.

But, she said the mayor could have done more. She said she knows some friends who have asked Menino and his staff for help, but were ignored.

Paz said she has met the mayor several times while doing volunteer work.

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Igor Kharitonenkov, 25, of Jamaica Plain, remembers vividly the first time he ever met Menino in person.

It was September 2010. Kharitonenkov had recently moved to Boston and started a new job with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy.

The organization held a ceremonial grounding breaking for a project to transform an old, vacant building in the Back Bay Fens into a visitors center.

The conservancy’s president Julie Crockford introduced him to Menino at the event.

Kharitonenkov handed the mayor a DVD of a documentary he had made about interesting stories from the conservancy’s history.

“He said, ‘keep up the good work, pal,’” Kharitonenkov recalled. “It was real quick but it was a cool moment. I had only been living in the city a couple of years, I’d just gotten this exciting new job and here I was handing a copy of my work to the most important person in the city.”

“It was a personally satisfying moment for me,” he said. “It was really humbling.”

Kharitonenkov now works at the vice president for Bootstrap Compost, a JP-based business he co-founded that turns residents’ and business’ food scraps into soil, some of which given to local farmers, returned to those who provided the scraps or donated to local schools and nonprofits.

Kharitonenkov, standing next to a bike he uses to tow buckets of food scraps, said he has been particularly fond of Menino’s commitment to make cycling safer, to improve city parks, to make Boston a greener and more environmentally sustainable city and to support small, local businesses.

“I think the mayor’s been great. He’s done a lot of progressive things for this city,” he said. “I’m kind of bummed that he’s not going to run again.”

But, “that’s his decision. You’ve got to take care of yourself and your health first. If the mayor’s not healthy, how’s the city going to be healthy.”

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To read more resident reaction about Menino's decision, click here.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at mjrochele@gmail.com.
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