Kudos to the Portland City Council on naming the corner of Middle and Temple streets as the John E. Menario Plaza. This is well-deserved and long-overdue recognition for one of Portland’s premier leaders of our time.

John Menario set the table for today’s Portland, and to fully appreciate his impact, one would need to have been here to understand how far Portland had fallen in the 1960s and ’70s.

There were no joggers on the Boulevard because, without a wastewater treatment system, it was nothing other than a semicircular tidal sewer. Trash ended up in an open-burning dump on Ocean Avenue. Bayside was a giant junkyard.

Commercial Street was a navigational nightmare. Restaurants were few. And if you experienced a health emergency, good luck getting to the emergency room. The Civic Center didn’t exist and would never have been located downtown given the infrastructure deficiencies that were a deal-killer for any serious development.

John Menario was the force in turning this around because he understood that the city would continue to slide without serious infrastructure investments. He was smart, strategically brilliant and a master at motivating staff and building community and City Council consensus. He knew how to get things done and did so with integrity, civility and fair play.

As one who was fortunate to serve as an assistant city manager under John Menario, and having had the honor of following him as acting city manager, I have been forever grateful for the professional experience and lessons learned from those years. To me, John was a teacher and mentor and, if you listened and observed, you learned a lot.

So thank you, John, and thank you, City Manager Jon Jennings and the Portland City Council for the John E. Menario Plaza.

Neal Allen

executive director, Greater Portland Council of Governments

Portland