Yoon: No Work Left For Me In This Town

Published June 28, 2010

Sure, anyone can challenge Mayor Menino. Just don’t lose.

Sam Yoon did. He staked his City Council seat on it. Now he’s leaving politics — not for good, just for now — and heading to Washington to do non-profit work (running the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations). It’s back to his roots in community-based organizing.

Former City Councilor Sam Yoon is singin' the blues about Boston politics. (WBUR)

Former City Councilor Sam Yoon is singin' the blues about Boston politics. (WBUR)

For a guy with such an exciting new gig, he sure sounded sad on the phone with me today.

“It’s bittersweet leaving Boston,” he said. “My family has a lot invested in this city, but we move knowing there are opportunities to come.”

So why not look for opportunities in Boston?

“I did look for opportunities in Boston. And there was kind of a difficult political dynamic that was left in the wake of the election last year.”

Oh, yeah. That.

“Challenging a 16-year incumbent mayor as powerful as (Menino) is not without risk,” he told me. “When you do that, you have to realize there are consequences to that challenge.”

He did not get specific but said he tried to find work in Boston for six months. “The signals that I had gotten from the community here in Boston is that, to the extent that any organization is going to need to work with the city … it would be a risk to bring someone on who doesn’t have a clear ‘in’.”

[pullquote]”All politics is local, but all local politics is personal.”[/pullquote]

“I wasn’t shocked that that dynamic existed, but I wasn’t ever really sure how deep it went among the leadership in Boston.”

Yoon moved to to Boston in 1993 to attend Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He started a family in Dorchester.

He ran for mayor in 2009 and, after faltering in the primary, joined forces with Michael Flaherty to become the dynamic duo known as Floon 2009. For the first time in years, Boston began to imagine a city without Menino.

But the incumbent doesn’t lose, and Menino captured an unprecedented fifth term.

“Someone once said that all politics is local, but all local politics is personal,” Yoon told me. “I think Boston does have a reputation for taking that to a degree even beyond other cities.”

Tuesday Update: The Globe prints a story on Yoon. “Always dapper by the break of dawn during his council days, Yoon acknowledges that on occasion now he stays in pajamas through midmorning.”