Tobin leaving Boston City Council

Taking new post at Northeastern

‘I’m really not leaving politics,’ said John Tobin. ‘I framed it in the sense that I’ll be the city councilor for Northeastern.’ ‘I’m really not leaving politics,’ said John Tobin. ‘I framed it in the sense that I’ll be the city councilor for Northeastern.’
By John M. Guilfoil
Globe Staff / July 6, 2010

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Interrupting a promising political career, City Councilor John M. Tobin Jr. will step down to take a high-level community relations position at Northeastern University.

The 40-year-old Tobin has been an oft-mentioned candidate for mayor in the 2013 city election. Instead he will become Northeastern's vice president for city and community affairs in early August.

"It's time for a new chapter in my life," Tobin said in a phone interview last night. "I'll always be grateful for the opportunity people gave me to let me represent them and to let me have this experience as a Boston city councilor."

Tobin was elected to the City Council in 2001. He represents District 6, which includes West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, and parts of Roslindale and Mission Hill.

"It's a great loss, John leaving," said Dan Settana, Democratic state committeeman, who represents the district. "He always said he wanted to be mayor of Boston. I'm surprised he'd step down."

Tobin's sudden departure will add even more activity to a part of the city already busy with political campaigns. State Senator Marian Walsh of West Roxbury is retiring, with state Representative Michael Rush in the running for her seat. And already six Democrats are vying for his seat, which includes parts of West Roxbury, Roslindale, and Brookline. Tobin, who has two young children, said he wanted more flexibility to raise his family.

"Sometimes an opportunity like this is almost as rare as the opportunity to run for mayor," Tobin said. "I'm really not leaving politics. I framed it in the sense that I'll be the city councilor for Northeastern, dealing with the neighborhoods that Northeastern touches."

The new position will make use of his contacts in city government and neighborhoods, particularly on Mission Hill, where a large number of Northeastern students live.

Northeastern University has undergone a transformation over the past three decades, from a largely commuter school to one with a sprawling residential campus that has pushed it deeper into the Mission Hill neighborhood.

Northeastern said Tobin will work closely with school leaders "to foster a collaborative, mutually beneficial relationship between Northeastern and its home city."

"At Northeastern University, urban engagement is not something we do; it is who we are,"its president, Joseph E. Aoun, said in a statement. "John Tobin will help us move the university and the city forward by strengthening the fabric of our collective community."

Among the first people Tobin reached out to about his new job is his colleague, City Council president Michael P. Ross, whose district includes most of Northeastern's campus.

As for a future in politics, Tobin said he isn't ruling it out. "Once it's in your bloodstream, it's hard to get it out entirely," he said.

Globe correspondent Stewart Bishop contributed to this report. John M. Guilfoil can be reached at

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