Three-term Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, who won the Democratic nomination for president in 1988, says becoming a college professor, particularly at an urban university like Northeastern, was one of the best decisions he’s ever made.

Speaking to 175 attendees of the Association of Town Finance Committees Annual Meeting on Oct. 15 in Franklin, Dukakis, 77, said he greatly enjoys teaching in Northeastern’s MPA program, which he has done for more than 20 years. The school has named its Center for Urban and Regional Policy for Dukakis and his wife, Kitty.

Responding to numerous questions from the audience, Dukakis covered issues from health care cost containment to education. He pointed to a rise in high school and college graduation rates in Massachusetts in recent decades and suggested that today’s students are more focused on public service and giving back to their communities.

Dukakis began his public service career in local government, becoming a town meeting member in his hometown of Brookline in 1959 and serving until 1970. He discussed how this experience shaped his life in politics and his strong belief that local politics is where real change can be made.

Dukakis talked about a recent trip with Kitty to South Korea, where he was stationed while serving in the U.S. Army. He spent 16 months with the Support Group to the U.N. Delegation to the Military Armistice Commission in Munsan, Korea. When he left in 1957, Korea was a shell of a country with no infrastructure, he said. When he returned some 50 years later to speak at a conference, he found that South Korea rivals any first-world country in technology, education, infrastructure and its economy.

The former governor remains active in politics locally. In 2008, he was a ward captain for President Barack Obama’s campaign. While going door-to-door in his neighborhood, he often discussed national as well as state and local politics. He would often give residents guidance on anything from town meeting to trash pick-up schedules.

His dedication to his hometown continues as well. He is sometimes seen painting over graffiti on mailboxes, something he feels is an important part of being a member of a community. After Dukakis spoke, one ATFC member who had worked in Brookline commented that he had occasionally seen Dukakis picking trash off the sidewalk and streets.

The day-long ATFC Annual Meeting included six educational workshops. Click here for the materials from this year’s sessions.