Election Day on Boston City Hall’s fifth floor was -- not surprisingly -- quiet. After 30 years, it’s the first time Mayor Thomas Menino’s name is not on the ballot for a city election.

And it’s a change of lifestyle that Menino said he has accepted.  

"It’s done. I made that decision in March, and it’s done. I have to live with my decision. I’m at peace of mind with myself," he said Tuesday morning at his polling place: the Roosevelt School in Hyde Park. 

It’s in Hyde Park and other neighborhoods – rather than the floors of City Hall – that Menino said his successor will sink or swim.

"You have to gain the trust, and you don’t gain the trust by sitting in City Hall. You have to be out with the people, listen to people in the churches, community rooms. You have to be there, listening to them," he said. "Over my years, people have criticized me, 'Oh, you’re always out in the neighborhoods.' That’s where I got oxygen. That’s where I got my ideas, and that’s where I learned a lot about the city.

Menino spent more than 10 minutes answering questions from reporters before going inside the school to vote on Tuesday. The mayor reflected on his 20 years in office, and said he believed he made the city a little bit better.

He called Boston a much more younger and progressive city than the one he inherited, touting its gains in innovation and technology. Yet, there was another area of progress that Menino is proudest. 

"More racially tolerant than we were in the past. We don’t have the nonsense we used to have around our city. I mean, we’re not perfect. I’m not saying we are, but man we’ve come a long way. I was there in the worst days of the city, ’73, ’74, ’75.  I was in those high schools, when kids were throwing rocks., people beating each other up. We’ve came through a long time."

At the same time, the mayor was also open about issues he felt were unfinished, such as education.

"We made a lot of gains. We’re not perfect. When you look at our scores and our graduation rates, we’re doing really well, but we still have problems. I hope in my next life I’ll be able to be involved in some place with education because the kids of Boston are so important to me."

Education is what Menino said he would like to continue to work on after he leaves office. It’s an issue he says he now looks at differently compared with 20 years ago. What changed him?

"Those kids you talk to in the classrooms are some of the smartest son of a guns in the world. They taught me a lot in my career and I remember when I first got elected – I come from Hyde Park, a very stable home – and they taught me all about guns and drugs. I learned a lot from those kids. We underestimate those kids."

Menino said he still wants to change the way people think about education. That would likely include working with the new mayor.

"We’ve got a transition plan in place We’ve been working on it since I decided I wasn’t gonna run. We’re gonna work with the new administration and see who their people are in the transition, and turn over the books to them. I wanna make sure it’s as smooth as possible."

But as soon as he’s out of office, Menino said he’ll also be looking forward to simpler things, such as family:

"My granddaughter called me this morning, 'Papa, it’ll be alright, Papa. Don’t worry about it. It’ll be okay. You’ll have more time to spend with me and spend money on me.'”

And a little free time.

"I don’t have to go this banquet and that banquet and this banquet. It’s a change where I’ll be able to choose where I wanna go."