If Cambridge Massachusetts was a man, he would be a homeless, hippie, double-MBA from Harvard grad, stepping down as CEO from Biogen to run for City Council as a Liberatarian while simultaneously writing the next War and Peace as he is being arrested for urinating in the Charles River.
How’s that imagery?
Cambridge is the one of the epicenters of intellect, imagination and ingenuity. It is also the birthplace of my mother and her family. However, Cambridge is not the epicenter of this story, just the backdrop.
My mother’s oldest brother, Robert “Bob” Healy was the City Manager of Cambridge for more than thirty years. With the gentle-est of Iron Fists, Bob turned this once downtrodden municipalities into an economic iconoclasts envied by others in his post across the nation.
Below is the very first column I ever penned and put “out there” for public consumption. Thankfully this article was well received, not because of my powerful prose but because of the substance of the man I was writing about.
Bob was a humble legend. A yeoman-level workaholic, Bob was always a simple but not-to-be-fooled-with leader. Bob could be on the phone with the Governor while he was ordering a hot dog from the cart next to City Hall (he was on a first name basis with both of those guys, by the way).
The oldest of six children and the son of a Cambridge bus driver, Bob epitomized “self-made”. I was always impressed by him, but not because of his status, title, or power. I was impressed by him because he was such a kind, compassionate, genuine man.
A great leader but, moreso, a great husband, a great father, a great friend (and pretty great uncle too).
Standing the Test of Time
February 3, 2009
I wanted to take this opportunity to recognize one of Lowell’s finest leaders – Bob Healy.
Who, you ask? True, Bob has not been part of Lowell city government in 30 years, but itis where he got his start. If you don’t already know, Bob has served as the City Manager of Cambridge, Massachusetts for nearly 30 years and has been a resident of Lowell for over 40. In an age when we see our public officials come and go as nearly as fast as our professional sports heroes, Bob has stood the test of time in his post. How has he done so? Quite simple. Honest, hard work and the ability to get along with those around him no matter the circumstances or varying personalities.
This brings me to my next point – diversity. No sure how much you know about Cambridge, but it may very well be the most diverse and liberal major city in America. Cambridge is the home to, arguably, the nation’s most prestigious universities in Harvard and MIT, and some of our country’s most cutting edge bio-tech companies, but you are never more than a stones throw from a homeless person or low income housing. Bob, himself, has joked many times, “If it were not forCambridge and Berkeley, CA the country would tip over!” (referring the extreme levels of racial and economic diversity in each city)
Its FY 2007 residential property tax rate was rated one of the lowest in Massachusetts.Cambridge enjoys the highest possible bond credit rating, AAA, with all three WallStreet rating agencies.
To know Bob in private life, as I do, you would never know he is the leader of a major metropolis. Quiet, shy and extremely unassuming. But, turn on cable access on Monday nights in Cambridge and you will see a very different Bob Healy. Eloquent, confident,calm. Calm to the point of nauseum even with an upset citizen or disgruntled city councilmember screaming from the hilltops. It is perhaps this quality – calmness in the face of adversity or hard times- that above all has allowed for his longevity and separated him from the pack. (Bob is the longest serving city manager in Cambridge history) Bob is a fully ’vested’ state employee – and by that I mean his has reached his maximum lifetime pension requirement in regards to years served– yet he continues to work. Work REALLY hard. Rarely a day goes by when Bob is not the first person at Cambridge City Hall. It is not uncommon to see his car pull out of his driveway on Raven Road in Lowell heading for the People’s Republic of Cambridge (as it has been dubbed by it’s citizens for it’s extreme liberal nature) at 4:30AM. And when it starts to snow…forget it! Bob is racing the snow plows down Route 3 in the middle of the night to get to his ”command post” at city hall to ensure ”his” streets are safely plowed! So, why does he continue to work so very hard for virtually pennies on the dollar related to his retirement package? No one really knows but Bob. My guess is because that is all he knows how to do – and when you are really good at something, as Bob is, it is hard to give that up.
This coming Saturday, February 7th, the City of Cambridge will honor Bob by unveiling the new ‘Robert W. Healy Public Safety Facility’, which will include a state-of-the-art Police Headquarters and Emergency Communications Center.
Bob will probably make a few very brief and humble remarks and rush back to his office.I hope he takes at least a few minutes to reflect on all he has achieved.
If this reads as somewhat biased, it should – I am Bob’s nephew.
-Frank McCabe, Jr.