Which number mayor is she, anyway?
Newly minted acting Mayor Kim Janey’s administration blasted out multiple emails this week celebrating her ascension to becoming Boston’s 55th mayor. Press releases celebrating her ceremonial swearing-in did as much, along with a “Dear Boston” letter the mayor’s office shot out via email.
But a look at the list of the city’s mayors shows that number might not be quite right, based on math complicated by the fact she’s an acting mayor — though she’s sought to distance herself from that title as she mulls a run for a full elected term.
In order for her to come by the 55 number, Janey’s count has to skip some of the half-dozen other people who had the same “acting” designation as she does now. Counting them, depending on who qualifies, she’d likely be in the high 50s or around 60.
Janey’s camp counters that all this is a massive overcomplication. After all, Walsh was the 54th mayor, and Janey’s in charge now right after him, so Janey’s the 55th, they say.
But that math ignores, for example, John Kerrigan, who was city council president in 1945 when Mayor Maurice Tobin — the one the bridge is named after — departed after winning the gubernatorial race. Much like Janey, Kerrigan became the acting mayor and served into 1946, but he never was elected, and isn’t counted in the numerical tally.
Even though she eschews the word “acting” in her title — she essentially never says the word, and her political and administration press releases and collateral all just say “mayor” — the designation is a legal one that comes from the city’s governing charter. When an elected mayor leaves, as now-Labor Secretary Martin Walsh did on Monday, the City Council president — Janey — takes on the “acting mayor” title — a powerful position, but more limited than a full elected mayor.
The city’s list of all of its mayors — going back to 1822, when John Phillips became the city’s first mayor — lists five acting mayors before Kerrigan, though some only served for a matter of weeks in the elevated position.
This all comes as Janey mulls a run for a four-year term as a full elected mayor. She said on Wednesday that she’d make her decision public in the “coming weeks” as to whether she’ll seek the office in November’s election — which, if she won, would indisputably make her the city’s 55th mayor.
In that case, she’d be most like the two most recent acting mayors: John Hynes, who took the reins for several months when the sitting Mayor John Michael Curley was in jail, and Thomas Menino, who took over for Mayor Ray Flynn in 1993 when Flynn became the ambassador to the Vatican.
Both Hynes and Menino ran for mayor during the next election and won. Hynes’ name is memorialized on the big convention center near Fenway, and the legendary Menino never looked back, serving out a record five terms before retiring in 2014.
No matter how you count it, both of them have their respective numbers firmly next to them on the mayoral list.