Gov. Deval L. Patrick is putting his own mark on how state government operates at the top, assembling an experienced and diverse Cabinet he says is set up to better focus state resources.
This week Mr. Patrick announced that four top officials overseeing energy, environment, labor, state finances, housing and economic development will work together as a “development cabinet” within the executive offices, that he will head up to work on job growth, infrastructure improvements and business development.
“This development cabinet will get people working together “¦ to promote economic growth and move our state forward,” Mr. Patrick said.
Worcester lawyer Michael P. Angelini, who volunteered to help recruit and screen potential candidates for the Cabinet as one of three transition co-chairmen, said the ability to look beyond areas of expertise and understand how various parts of state government can work cooperatively on goals was a priority in making Cabinet recommendations.
“We were looking for people of high intellectual quality, high energy levels and high levels of knowledge,” Mr. Angelini said. “We wanted people who got the message, and who knew this wasn’t going to be business as usual and could think about doing business in a new and better way. The other thing we looked for is people who wanted to operate out of silos, could think beyond their specific levels of expertise and see how all the pieces fit together.”
Mr. Angelini said he considers the recruitment process a success.
“I’m delighted with the people we got. They have a big job to do. We got our first choices in all these jobs,” he said.
Mr. Patrick chose a longtime friend, well-known child welfare advocate and former head of the Urban League of Massachusetts in naming Joan Wallace-Benjamin as his chief of staff.
Ms. Wallace-Benjamin, who has known Mr. Patrick and his family for 15 years, had been running the Home for Little Wanderers, the largest child welfare agency in New England. She comes into her new job with high hopes and admiration for her boss.
“He is a fine person and a great leader, with a vision that has captured our imaginations and our sense of possibility,” she said when her selection was announced.
With high energy prices, the war in Iraq and signs of global climate change as a backdrop, Mr. Patrick elevated energy issues to the Cabinet level for the first time, as he reconfigured the job of the state’s environment secretary to combine traditional responsibilities of environmental protection with the new mission of building the state’s alternative energy industry.
For that task, Mr. Patrick chose Ian Bowles as his secretary of energy and environmental affairs. The former top environmental official in the Clinton White House was working as president of MassInc. a Boston-based think tank.
As associate director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality when he was 31, the Woods Hole native later was senior director of the Global Environmental Affairs Directorate of the National Security Council. Mr. Bowles, with degrees from Harvard and Oxford University, has high level experience on global warming and clean energy issues, and will be challenged to blend two areas of interest that are normally in conflict.
“The governor’s goal is to unify the energy and environmental objectives,” Mr. Bowles said, acknowledging that energy development has traditionally been viewed as inherently threatening to the environment.
Massachusetts, he said, may be in a unique position to develop an alternative energy industry because of the availability of venture capital, the brain trust of the state’s engineering and technical universities, and a talented work force.
Mr. Patrick, who has said he believes clean energy advancements could make the world the state’s customer, has in Mr. Bowles someone who has bought into that concept.
“Clean energy can be a real economic development opportunity for our state,” he said, and part of his job will be encouraging wind farms, solar companies, fuel cell technology and advanced energy conservation programs.
On the environment side, he said, he hopes to reinvigorate environmental improvement programs and set the state on course to reclaim its role as an environmental leader. One step in that direction will be joining nine other Northeast states in a compact to reduce global warming emissions that former Gov. Mitt Romney decided not to work with.
“That is something that is a high priority for him,” Mr. Bowles said of Mr. Patrick’s intent to sign on to the agreement.
Kevin M. Burke, 60, the new Secretary for Public Safety, brings political skills from 23 years as Essex County district attorney and the nuts-and-bolts crime-fighting experience from that job. He is challenged to crack down on urban gun violence, oversee a rapid increase in community policing and ensure the state is prepared to intercept and respond to terrorism and natural or manmade disasters.
He said the state is now in a “good position” to protect against acts of terror, working closely with federal intelligence and anti-terror forces with a “fusion center” that keeps state and federal police agencies in daily contact and coordinates activities.
Computer data on potential terrorists and suspects, he said, are one thing, but to him the system only works if the people in the various security agencies work face-to-face.
“You can build all the database protocols, but what we need is people talking to each other,” he said.
As for gang and gun violence, he said, expansion of community policing, new authority to protect witnesses from gang intimidation and expanding the state’s capacity for police training are all key elements. But, he said, equally important will be to bring the resources of the state’s youth services and other social agencies to bear on the problem.
As for finance, Mr. Patrick crossed party lines to recruit Leslie Kirwan, 49, as his Secretary for Administration and Finance. Ms. Kirwan, whose first job was in the state Department of Revenue, became a key staffer in the administration of former Gov. William F. Weld, dealing with local aid to cities and towns as deputy commissioner for the Division of Local Services. She was later undersecretary and chief of staff of Mr. Weld’s Executive Office of Administration and Finance.
Since Mr. Weld left office in 1997, she has worked as head of Administration and Finance for MassPort.
Besides setting up programs to increase state aid as part of Mr. Patrick’s plan to “stabilize” local property tax increases, Ms. Kirwan is also charged with building a state budget that fills an anticipated $1 billion shortfall next year, while also funding many new initiatives Mr. Patrick is planning and providing hundreds of millions in new spending on health care.
Reflecting a commitment to do more to build the state’s job base, Mr. Patrick created a new Cabinet position – secretary of Labor and Workforce Development – to which he appointed Suzanne M. Bump, 50, a lawyer, former legislator and campaign adviser from Great Barrington.
She worked in the Legislature on reforming the state’s industrial accident program, wrote the state’s Workers’ Compensation Reform Act of 1991 and worked several years with nonprofits on labor issues, including heading up an organization most recently that provided language and skills training for workers in the hotel industry.
Dana Mohler-Faria, 59, president of Bridgewater State College and former Dean of Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, was hired as Mr. Patrick’s special adviser on education.
A Cape Verdean who served in the Air Force before beginning his career in the state’s community and state colleges, Mr. Mohler-Faria said he is taking a comprehensive approach to educational improvement, from preschools through colleges.
With Mr. Patrick aiming to expand early childhood education and full-day kindergarten and boost state and community colleges’ abilities to train a high-tech work force, Mr. Mohler-Faria said he’s more hopeful than at any time in his 30 year career that the state’s public colleges and schools can do better. He also brings to the job a commitment from his earlier positions to keep college affordable.
Perhaps the most critical economic tasks facing the administration – lowering housing costs, developing new industries and expanding the job base – will fall in large part to Mr. Patrick’s Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, Daniel O’Connell, a lawyer and real estate developer with a background in large-scale development projects and quasi-independent state financing agencies.
Mr. O’Connell, from Boston, is former director of the Massachusetts Industrial Finance Agency, now known as MassDevelopment, and is former director of Planning and Development for MassPort. Mr. O’Connell said he will try to merge housing opportunities and job creation with the hope that efforts to lower the cost of housing will improve the state’s business climate.
Coordinating the state’s social service agencies and implementing the new universal and mandatory health insurance program will be Dr. Judy Ann Bigby, 55, who was medical director of community health programs at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and director of Harvard Medical School’s Center of Excellence in Women’s Health. In that position, she focused on health care for low-income women, including breast and cervical cancer and infant mortality.
Bernard Cohen, 60, former deputy manager of the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., which runs the state’s commuter rail service, was most recently director of the federal transit authority’s recovery office in lower Manhattan. He was recruited to take over one of the most critical secretariats – transportation.
He will oversee all the state’s transportation systems, efforts to improve commuter rail to Worcester, bring new service to Fall River and New Bedford and in July, will become the chairman of the Turnpike Authority overseeing the Big Dig.
By John J. Monahan
Telegram & Gazette Staff
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