Governor-elect Baker Taps Democrat For Top Economic Post
Charlie Baker’s first cabinet pick is a Democrat. The Republican Massachusetts governor-elect has named a respected city administrator to be his economic chief.
Governor-elect Charlie Baker Wednesday named Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash to be his administration’s Secretary of Housing and Economic Development. A statement from the transition committee praised Ash as “an accomplished local government official who reflects the administration’s focus on job creation, communities, and bipartisanship.”
Just a week after winning a close election, Baker is wasting little time on what he has said is his first priority—to staff the new administration.
"We are going to build a terrific team and that is in many respects my highest priority right now."
Baker during a swing through the Springfield area last week said he wanted to hire “the best and brightest,” regardless of party affiliation. He also promised regional diversity in the new administration.
Ash is a native of Chelsea, which is geographically the state’s smallest city. Hired in 2000, he is the city’s longest serving chief administrator and is credited with helping revitalize Chelsea, which spent much of the previous decade in receivership. The city recently was awarded a second All-America City designation.
Urban areas, like Chelsea, were highlighted in the Baker campaign’s economic development platform.
" A big part of our economic development plan focused on mid-sized cities and developing a set of strategies for working with them," Baker said during a visit with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. " That is really what we want one of the major focuses of our administration to be."
Ash advocated on Beacon Hill for municipal issues. He also lobbied to legalize casino gambling in Massachusetts. He was a participant in the casino industry-financed political organization that crushed the referendum to repeal the casino law.
The state’s first resort casinos in Springfield and Everett are expected to open by the end of Baker’s first term.
Baker on Monday met privately at the Statehouse with House Speaker Robert Deleo and Senate Majority Leader Stan Rosenberg, who is in line to become Senate President in January. All three said they looked forward to good working relationships.
Springfield-based political consultant Tony Cignoli believes the new Republican governor can work with the heavily Democratic legislature.
" There is never such a thing as a bandwagon-effect ( for a Republican) when you get elected and face a heavily Democratic Statehouse, but there are many members ( of the legislature) who will look at the victory on his ( Baker) part and see some mojo and say lets not fly in the face of it."
Baker and Rosenberg have a working relationship that goes back 20 years to when Baker was chief finance officer for Gov. Bill Weld and Rosenberg was chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
" One of the unique things is that you have someone like Stan Rosenberg who understands consensus, and who puts government or public service before politics," said Cignoli. " That is an intriguing piece."
Baker might find more difficulty with his own party than with the Democrats. He is supporting Republican Party Chairwoman Kirsten Hughes, who is a fighting an effort by conservative-leaning state committee members to oust her.