Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is joining the Biden administration as the secretary of Labor after the U.S. Senate confirmed his nomination by a vote of 68-29 on Monday.
An ally of President Joe Biden and a former union leader, Walsh received support from more than a dozen Republicans, including Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, a former governor of Massachusetts.
Celebrating the vote at historic Faneuil Hall with his final news conference as mayor, Walsh said, "Boston, Massachusetts, is the greatest city in the world, with the greatest people in the world living in our city."
He resigned as mayor, a position he has held since 2013, at 9 p.m., when City Council President Kim Janey became acting mayor. She made history as the first woman and person of color to hold the office.
Walsh said he and Janey recently texted each other about how amazing it is that kids from their neighborhoods in Boston could grow up to take on such important roles.
"Think about this for a minute, a little girl from Roxbury is about to be mayor of Boston. And her response was, 'Think about this for a minute. A little boy from Dorchester is about to become the United States labor secretary,'" Walsh said in an occasionally emotional farewell.
Walsh is the last of Biden's Cabinet secretaries to be confirmed by the Senate, though two other Cabinet-level positions remain to be confirmed. He said he plans to travel to Washington Tuesday morning and expects to be sworn in later in the day.
"I spent my entire career fighting for working people,” Walsh said Monday. "And I'm eager to continue that fight in Washington."
With a mayoral election to permanently fill his seat coming up this fall, Walsh announced that he will not back any of the candidates, calling it inappropriate. He wouldn't run out another run for office – he said he's aware that there's a race for governor of Massachusetts in 2022, which he'd be considered a strong contender for – but said he's focused on the job ahead of him.
"I just want to do the best job I can do for the American people. There's lots of work to do in Washington, D.C." Walsh said, with workplace safety and workforce development on his to-do list.
Congratulations poured in for Walsh from local politicians and organizations, including from Janey, as the monthslong Senate confirmation process came to a close.
Looking back, Walsh said his administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been one of his team's biggest accomplishments.
"When faced with a crisis of historic proportions, we stepped up. We were there for the people that we served, especially the most vulnerable," he said.
Walsh previously served as secretary/treasurer of the Boston Building Trades and has kept a close relationship with Biden. He stressed his union background during his confirmation hearing, along with his record as mayor.
“Through my career I've led by listening, collaborating and building partnerships. That's how if confirmed I will lead the department of labor. Right now we are depending on workers, men and women to keep us going as they always have done,” Walsh said at the February hearing.
Janey has not said whether she will add her name to the list of candidates running for mayor this year. Current contenders include Boston city councilors Michelle Wu, Andrea Campbell and Annissa Essaibi George, as well as state Rep. Jon Santiago and John Barros, the city's economic development chief.
Candidates have until May 18 to submit the required 3,000 nomination signatures. The Sept. 21 preliminary election will leave two candidates to compete in the final mayoral election, which will be held Nov. 2.
Walsh said he wouldn't play a role in that race, citing his personal relationships with all the candidates. His advice for them: "Enjoy the race, have fun, talk to everybody."
He saved arguably his most profuse and emotional thanks for City Hall workers.
"I want to thank each and every city employee," Walsh said, tearing up. "I love all of you, you do amazing work."