By John Lynds
Last Wednesday after eleven and a half years as District 1 City Council, and a 30-year career as a public servant for the City of Boston, Councilor Sal LaMattina addressed his colleagues in the Council Chambers for the last time.
In a stellar career that spanned three mayoral administrations LaMattina, in his last City Council meeting before leaving office, reflected on his time in office.
“Where do I begin,” LaMattina started. “When i was thinking about my last meeting and my last speech in this Chamber I was thinking of how lucky I’ve been for the last 30 years and how lucky we are as Boston City Councilors to represent this great city. I am so thankful to this city where my Italian Immigrant (family) came in the early 1900s and lived in the North End and East Boston. I am so thankful to be able to live in this city with my wife, Lisa and raise our beautiful daughter, Liana.”
LaMattina continued, “This past June I had the opportunity to be the keynote speaker at East Boston High School’s graduation. I was really excited because I really wanted to talk to the students, especially the Latino students, because I know a lot of them were concerned about the rhetoric going on in Washington D.C., at the time. And I wanted to tell them my story growing up in East Boston with a single mother on welfare that was raising four boys in a four-room apartment–my Italian immigrant grandparents on the first floor who spoke no English. I wanted to tell them the story of my mother and my aunts who had to quit school early to work and support to their families, but I also wanted to tell them that if you work hard in our city there are opportunities.”
LaMattina told of how he was the first one in his family to go to and graduate from college.
“I was so grateful because i had a really strong family but I also had a great neighborhood,” he said. “They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I was so lucky to have a neighborhood to help me. The Salesian Boys & Girls Club, the East Boston Social Centers, the East Boston Camps, the Paris Street Gym were places that helped me grow. I mention these places because the work that we do here is so important to the people that live in our great city. Our job as City Councilors is and has been to make sure every child in every neighborhood has the same opportunities we had as children growing up in the city.”
LaMattina shifted to praising his colleagues on the Council for a spirit of cooperation throughout his tenure.
“When I look around this Chamber I’m so proud of my fellow Councilors here and the work you continue to do to make Boston a better city,” said LaMattina. “I’m most proud that we have all worked together for my eleven and a half years here. We have worked as one body, and because we work together the city is a better place. There was something I learned as kid (at the Social Centers) and that is, “When we all give, We all gain”. I can truly say we all worked together and for that I’m grateful because the city gained.”
LaMattina thanked former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn for his first job in public service as a Neighborhood Services Coordinator in 1987. LaMattina later moved to the Central Artery Project under Flynn, and continued to work in Transportation under his longtime friend and mentor, the late Mayor Thomas Menino.
“Mayor Menino,” began an emotional LaMattina. “How lucky was I to have spent 20 years with Mayor Menino, I was so proud when he became the first Italian-American mayor in Boston, something none of us in East Boston or the North End ever thought we’d see. He gave me so many opportunities working in operations for BTD and it was really Mayor Menino who encouraged me to run for City Council.”
On working with Mayor Marty Walsh LaMattina said it has been an honor.
“I really like the things he is doing in the city right now, and look forward to the next four years because good things are going to happen,” he said.
About his wife, Lisa, LaMattina said she was one of the big reasons they stayed in Boston and served the city.
“Thirty years ago when I was offered the job to work for Mayor Flynn a lot of our friends and families had already moved out of the city, and we had to make the decision,” said LaMattina. “But Lisa said we had to stay and take care of our neighborhood and we did.”
Talking about his daughter, Liana, LaMattina said she is an example of the opportunities for young people in Boston.
“Liana, you have made me so proud,” said LaMattina. “When I talk about opportunity for young people in Boston I look at you. You took advantage of those opportunities. You graduated from Boston Latin School and went to Boston University on a City of Boston scholarship. I always tell young people if you go to school, work hard and graduate the opportunities are there.”
LaMattina also thanked his staff, many of whom had served in his office since the beginning.
“I want to thank my staff for putting up with me for 11 years,” he jokingly said. “But, really they have done amazing work in our District every day, and I thank them and I will miss them.”
In the end LaMattina, who wrote in his high school year book that he would someday like to be Mayor of Boston, said being an elected official and a public servant was always a dream of his.
“I’m honored to have served alongside all of you,” LaMattina told his colleagues. “I will miss every single one of you, but please continue to work together because when we work together our city is better, and when we work together, our city in stronger. So keep up the good work, and thank you.”