When Paul Cellucci disclosed two years ago that he had Lou Gehrig’s disease, his old buddy and path-defining political partner, William F. Weld, started working the phone lines to raise money for research and threw a major fund-raiser to fight the disease.
Now, even as ALS saps Cellucci’s physical strength, Weld is helping his old friend begin a new chapter in his professional life, an unlikely second act two decades after their partnership at the State House defined an era in Massachusetts politics.
Cellucci began working with Weld this week at the Boston lobbying and consulting firm ML Strategies, launching a private sector venture that reunites the duo that governed Massachusetts in the 1990s.
Cellucci, who was Weld’s lieutenant governor before becoming governor himself, plans to use his contacts from his days as ambassador to Canada to help Weld on a variety of consulting projects.
Cellucci, who uses a wheelchair, will work from his home in Hudson, using videoconference technology and dictation software to communicate with Weld and others in Boston.
“We were always partners,” Cellucci said Thursday. “He was the governor. I was the lieutenant governor, and we worked together, more productively than any other governor and lieutenant governor. I would say we’ve picked up right where we left off, working well together.”
Weld, who called Cellucci “my alter ego,” said he has already begun seeking Cellucci’s advice, much as he did when they were strategizing together in the corner office.
“In just a matter of days, he’s been doing what Paul does and can do, which is using authority to make things happen without being pushy about it,” Weld said. “He’s just a past master at that.”
In the 1990s, they were a path-breaking pair, the first governor and lieutenant governor to run together as a ticket.
Cellucci, who rose through the ranks of local and state office, used his deep knowledge of Massachusetts politics to help Weld navigate the trenches of the State House, while Weld spearheaded the charge with his easy charisma and penchant for spinning out ideas.
Cellucci was Weld’s lieutenant governor from 1991 to 1997, before becoming acting governor when Weld left to pursue an ambassadorship. In 1998, Cellucci was elected governor and served until 2001, when he resigned to become ambassador to Canada.
The two spent most of the last decade apart. Weld was in New York, working in an international legal practice. Cellucci was in Boston, at the law firm of McCarter & English.
Then, in January 2011, they were drawn together again, when Cellucci was diagnosed with ALS, a fatal disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord. Weld sprang into action, pressing his old political and business allies to help Cellucci raise millions of dollars for research.
The prospect of working together again arose several months ago, when Weld left New York and returned to Boston to join ML Strategies. Cellucci spoke to Weld and the firm’s president, Stephen P. Tocco, a former adviser to both men, about joining the firm, as well.
The arrangement was formalized this week when Cellucci, 64, became a senior adviser at ML Strategies. Weld, 67, said that, even though Cellucci is limited physically, his mind is as sharp as it was when they were governing together in the 1990s.
“I don’t know anyone whose judgment I would rely on more than Paul Cellucci’s,” Weld said. “He could run a Cabinet meeting tomorrow.”
Cellucci said he, too, is happy to be helping Weld again.
“Getting the Weld-Cellucci team back together is really a good thing,” Cellucci said. “This is the first time we’re working day to day again, so it feels good.”