Make your way around Watertown and it will be difficult not to go past something that former Town Manager Michael Driscoll had a hand in building or creating.
In his 29 years at the helm of the municipal government, he played a part in the construction of net zero schools, building police and fire stations, expanding the library, and creating new parks. Judging from the people who knew him best, however, the things that he treasured most were the friendships and relationships he built during that time.
On Friday, family, friends, colleagues, and many Watertown residents gathered at St. Patrick’s Church to bid farewell to the man who gave 45 years of public service to the Town (now City) of Watertown.
Family was the most important thing for Driscoll, said Father Steven Madden, whether it was his own family, or the greater family that is Watertown.
“I can say with confidence Mike saw everything about Watertown as family,” Madden said. “If you were to drive around the city today, you will see Mike’s handprints and footprints on lots of things, new buildings, new parks, new construction, all of which is moving this place forward. Mike saw everything about his job as family.”
Father Madden noted that Driscoll had one of the toughest jobs, because it is so difficult to keep everyone happy.
“I’d be willing to bet that there are some people in this church this morning who certainly knew Mike in this job, who came away from a phone call or meeting somewhat disappointed because they didn’t get the answer that they wanted from the Town Manager,” Madden said. “But I knew Mike for a long time, and I know that whatever decision he made, he made with this place’s best interest in mind. He was intelligent, he was tough when he needed to be, but I am confident in saying he was also fair.”
His daughters confirmed that family stood atop his list of priorities.
“Despite the long hours he spent at work, Dad was never too busy to pick us up at the airport, make us breakfast before we got up in the morning, or cheer us on at tennis matches,” said his daughter Amy.
Daughter Allison said, “Our dad was hard working, honest, stubborn, loyal to a fault, and relentlessly positive.”
She also recalled how even at home he was financially prudent.
“Unit cost, that was his favorite way to quantify the value of any item,” she said. “He rode the same bicycle from the 1970s well into the 2010s. The unit cost of the bicycle was unbelievable. This prudent approach to finance is what made Watertown the envy of many communities in Massachusetts.”
Watertown faced some challenging times during Driscoll’s tenure, and to get through it, Allison said, he took his own advice,
“Don’t sweat the small stuff. Dad was able to shake off a lot of small stuff because during the course of his career he dealt with a lot of big stuff,” she said.”The search for the Marathon Bombers in 2013, the COVID Crisis in 2020, the economic downturns of 2008 and 2020 when Watertown remained financially stable and avoided layoffs.”
Outside of work, the fun side of Michael Driscoll came out. His daughter Aileen said that, “Everything was more fun when he was around. He loved good food and drink, and watching spots … and romantic comedies.”
She added that he loved meeting new people and asking about their lives. “He never forgot a detail.” The steel trap memory also made him a tough opponent in Rummy.
When he had time away from Town Hall, Driscoll enjoyed hitting the slopes at Loon Mountain, or a day at the beach on the Cape.
“Dad treasured his time down the Cape with (his wife) Jane, eating at their favorite restaurant, taking leisurely walks with their beloved dog, Libby, and otherwise enjoying ‘getting out of Dodge,'” Amy said.
Unfortunately, Driscoll had little time to enjoy his retirement, Madden said, because his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer came around the same time that he retired in January 2022. While it is upsetting that he didn’t get to enjoy time with his family after retiring, Madden told those at the Mass, he added that people can be grateful and celebrate the impact he had on Watertown.