Bloomberg took the oath of office less than four months after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Following a controversial election season in which he ended his lifelong affiliation with the Democratic Party to run as a Republican and spent $73 million out of pocket on his campaign, Bloomberg faced a city that had been physically and economically­ scarred like never before.

When Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in 2008, and one of New York’s most important industries — as a job creator and a tax generator — seemed to be on life support, he again faced one of the toughest crises the city had ever seen. Nothing he did seemed right. Abandoning the banks would have caused unknown financial damage to the city. Offering assistance led to claims that Bloomberg was in bed with his former colleagues. He ignored his critics and followed what he believed would be the best path for the city: focusing on strengthening the economy while creating jobs and improving the environment.

New York’s economy is now thriving, and Bloomberg is leaving office with high approval ratings. But the mayor argues that his greatest accomplishments aren’t the economic renaissance or the record-low crime rate.

“There are many things we have achieved that I am proud of, but one of the most important to me is that life expectancy in New York City has grown three years since I took office in 2002 and is now 2.2 years greater than the national average,” he says.

He attributes this dramatic increase in part to the smoking ban he instituted as one of his first acts as mayor. This ban served as a preview of what was to come for Bloomberg’s next decade in office. When he first ordered cigarettes out of all bars and restaurants, many said it would economically damage these establishments. More importantly, some said, it was an egregious example of the government telling adults what they should do.