Bridge to the Future

After serving as corporation counsel for Boston, Gene O’Flaherty is returning to Chelsea

When his friend and colleague in the House of Representatives, Martin Walsh, the newly elected mayor of Boston, asked him to be corporation counsel for the city of Boston, then-State Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty accepted the new job and the considerable challenge of the position.

And now after seven years of commendable and widely acclaimed service in the key role in the Walsh Administration, O’Flaherty is leaving and will be returning to Chelsea.

Signing the sister agreement drafted by Attorney Gene O’Flaherty in 2014 between Boston and Belfast are Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Belfast Mayor Mairtin O’Muilleoir as
City of Boston Corporation Counsel Gene O’Flaherty looks on with approval.

“It was an incredible opportunity to serve the City of Boston and to continue my public service,” said O’Flaherty. “When I got there, it felt like an overwhelming task. We have to manage over 60 attorneys, paralegals, and staff. It’s a very diverse law practice, with many qualified attorneys working on schools, on the Boston Police and Boston Fire, and all the different departments and commissions, as well as the Boston City Council,” said O’Flaherty.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Corporation Counsel Gene O’Flaherty display Friendship Four Hockey Tournament jerseys. In 2014 Gene O’Flaherty spearheaded with Mayor
Martin J. Walsh’s assent a sister city agreement with Belfast, Northern Ireland and Boston. As part of ensuring continued peace in that part of the world a cross community interest
has developed with hockey as both communities of nationalists (play Gaelic Football) and unionists (play soccer) can play jockey and it brings kids and communities together
that still today play segregated sports. In 2014 O’Flaherty brought officials from Belfast to Boston and several universities
and what was hatched with great success was the
Friendship Four Hockey Tournament that brings together
four American universities annually on Thanksgiving to
play in a hockey tournament for the Belpot.
“I’m proud I did this because it ensures peace and brings
goodwill every year along with educational opportunities
for both communities,” said O’Flaherty.

If it sounds like a gargantuan operation, it is. All of the legal representation for New England’s largest city was under O’Flaherty’s jurisdiction, including more than 1,200 litigation cases per year.

There are close to 20,000 employees working for the city “so it was a very large law practice difficult to manage, but I quickly, with the help of some very public servants, figured out what the role of the job was,” said O’Flaherty.

“Being with the Mayor, my legislative colleague and friend, throughout all of that, it was a great honor working to fufill a lot of what he wanted to accomplish as Mayor,” said O’Flaherty. “I’ve been by his side almost since Day 1, and we’ll be leaving around the same time.”

Walsh has been nominated by President Joe Biden for the Cabinet position of U.S. Labor Secretary. O’Flaherty was asked by the Mayor to serve with him in Washington, D.C. in the Office of the Secretary of Labor.

“Maybe if I were 20 years younger, I would have taken advantage of that opportunity, but at this point in my life, it will be too disruptive to both myself, my wife (Patricia), and my in-laws,” said O’Flaherty.

“While I was very honored to be asked to serve in the Office of the Secretary of Labor and continue working with Mayor Walsh in his new role, I had to very emotionally decline the offer.

“I’m very proud of what he has accomplished as Mayor and now to be in President Biden’s Cabinet – but it would be too disruptive personally to me, my family, my friends, and our network that we have here, to leave here and go down to Washington,” said O’Flaherty.

 Chelsea’s former state representative

Gene O’Flaherty was elected state representative for Chelsea and Charlestown in November, 1996, and took office in January, 1997. O’Flaherty and Walsh, who represented Dorchester, both started together as freshman legislators.

“Both of our districts had Boston, so we had mutual legislative interests at first and we quickly became friends because, like me, both his parents were from Ireland and both my parents were both from Ireland as well, so we had a lot in common and we hit it off,” said O’Flaherty.

They served in the House of Representatives together for 17 years. When Walsh was elected Mayor of Boston in 2013 and took office in 2014, he met for dinner with O’Flaherty and asked him to join his administration as corporation counsel.

O’Flaherty accepted the offer. He stepped down from his state representative seat and gave up his private law practice.

Many accomplishments that bettered the city

Over the course of Walsh and O’Flaherty’s seven years together in Boston city government, there were many accomplishments.

Until COVID-19 arrived, the economy for the City of Boston was booming. The innovative Seaport District, now a national model, was developed during the administration.

New fire stations, police stations, and libraries were built in the city. There was new infrastructure and huge economic growth.

 Returning to law practice

A graduate of Suffolk University and the Massachusetts School of Law, Gene O’Flaherty will be returning to private law practice, including government relations. He has been practicing law since 1994.

As he comes back to the city where residents overwhelmingly supported him in elections, O’Flaherty says he’s excited to back in Chelsea.

“It’s good to be home,” he said.

Said Councilor-at- Large Leo Robinson, “It’s great to have Gene returning to our city and being a big part of our community. He was an excellent, hard-working state representative who did so much for our city when he served in that position. I know he was also a tremendous asset to the Walsh Administrative in an important role. I look forward to seeing Gene at Chelsea events and I wish him well in his law practice.”

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