BOSTON — Invoking the memory of his legendary father, Lynn Mayor and former Sen. Thomas M. McGee bid farewell to his Beacon Hill colleagues Thursday in an emotional speech in the House chamber.
“When I came to the State House with my father in 1963 as a 7-year-old and made noise coasting down the halls with my brother, I never thought I would be up here speaking one day,” he said.
McGee, who served in the House for eight years and has been in the Senate since 2002, was elected mayor of Lynn by a landslide last fall, defeating incumbent Judith Flanagan Kennedy. He resigned his senate seat earlier this month.
“While I am excited for the challenges ahead, this building has been a second home, and my colleagues have been a second family for me over these last 20 plus years,” he said.
Amid cheers and standing ovations, McGee thanked his family, including his wife, Maria, his children, Thomas and Katherine, and his late parents, former House Speaker Thomas W. and Ann McGee.
“You have always supported me, inspired me and encouraged me,” he said. “I cannot express how much that has meant to me and sustained me through the years.”
McGee also thanked his North Shore constituents, and his extended family of lawmakers, and staff, past and present.
The Lynn Democrat cited a handful of accomplishments including establishing the Children’s Caucus to ensure that the state’s most vulnerable residents are protected; the reorganization of the Department of Transportation following the Big Dig, enacting transportation finance reform; making gay marriage legal; opposing the death penalty; and providing healthcare to all.
“Today is a bittersweet day for me as I say goodbye to all of you and to serving in the Massachusetts Legislature,” he said.
State Sen. and Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) spoke highly of McGee at the one hour event.
“In 1995, the gentleman from Lynn came to the Legislature following the great legacy of his father,” he said. “He rolled up his sleeves, and while it was a daunting task, he upheld his father’s tradition.”
As mayor, Tarr said, McGee will realize the city’s potential.
“He hit the ground running as the new mayor and will always be a champion of the North Shore, and Lynn’s place,” he said. “We wish him well.”
Acting Senate President Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) praised McGee as a fierce advocate for the North Shore, transportation, and the commonwealth.
“In 1995, we were freshmen legislators and I knew he was the son of an iconic lawmaker,” she said. “But rather than follow in anyone’s footsteps, he forged his own path…He led the way for equality and fairness.”
State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn), who was among dozens of lawmakers in the chamber, said he considers himself to be the luckiest person in the room.
“While he is leaving the Legislature, I still get to work with Tom McGee in the city of Lynn,” he said. “He’s a great role model, great mentor, all around great person who really added to the fabric of this institution, and I’m very pleased to have him as my mayor.”
State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) who served as McGee’s chief of staff and is running unopposed to fill the seat the former senator left behind, said McGee has accomplished much as a legislator in terms of transportation, health care and civil rights.
“But his biggest legacy will that of helping people within his district and taking care of the constituents he represented, like his dad did,” he said. “It’s a big loss for the senate, but he will do a great job as mayor and we are excited to get to work.”
As McGee left the podium for what could be the last time, he quickly returned.
“Before I leave I want to bang the gavel in honor of my dad,” he said.
And with the loud thud, more cheers went up.