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Baker picks Kevin R. Hayden as Suffolk DA, with Rachael Rollins poised to become US attorney

Kevin Hayden, chair of the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board, spoke with Jim Braude, host of GBH News’ Greater Boston on Jan. 11, 2016 at the GBH Studios in Brighton, Mass.Courtesy GBH News

Governor Charlie Baker Thursday appointed Kevin Hayden to serve as Suffolk district attorney for the remainder of the term vacated by Rachael Rollins, who is set to be sworn in next week as US attorney for Massachusetts.

A longtime attorney, Hayden, 53, currently chairs the Sex Offender Registry Board, the agency that tracks the state’s most dangerous sex offenders. He was named chairman of the board by Baker in 2015.

Hayden joined the board in 2013, after working as a lawyer in private practice for nearly 20 years. He also worked in the DA’s office from 1997 to 2008 and headed the office’s Safe Neighborhood Initiative.

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In a statement, Baker called Hayden “a dedicated public servant with a proven record of commitment to equitable justice and community engagement.” Baker also thanked Rollins for her work as district attorney, and said he looked forward to working with her in her new federal post.

President Biden nominated Rollins last year, and she was confirmed last month following a nearly deadlocked US Senate vote. She is set to take office Monday.

Hayden is slated to serve through the rest of Rollins’s term, which ends in 2022. He is a registered Democrat and lives in Roslindale, records show. It was unknown Thursday whether he intends to run for election later this year for a full term.

Hayden said in a statement Thursday that he’s always had a passion for public service.

“It’s truly my distinct honor and privilege to be called home by the Governor through this appointment,” Hayden said. “I’m deeply humbled to now take the mantle of leadership ... and I look forward to working faithfully with the office’s talented professionals, officials and community leaders, and with and for all the dedicated people of Suffolk County.”

Rollins, who took office as district attorney in 2019, offered her “heartfelt congratulations” to Hayden on his appointment.

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“Serving in this role has been one of the greatest honors of my career, and I’m excited to see this office and the communities it serves continue to thrive under the leadership of District Attorney Hayden,” Rollins said in a statement.

Rollins noted that the district attorney wields “great power” in the lives of people who have contact with the criminal justice system, be they victims, survivors, witnesses, defendants, or affected relatives and community members.

Daniel F. Conley, Rollins’s predecessor as Suffolk district attorney, Thursday called Hayden, who served under him for several years in the office, an “excellent choice.”

“He is a family man, a churchgoing man, and someone I expect to be a traditional prosecutor,” said Conley, a lawyer at Mintz Levin. He added that Hayden was “deeply committed to working with the community” during his prior stint in the DA’s office.

“He was very active in intervention and diversion programming and was a leader in those areas,” Conley said.

Former state public safety secretary Andrea Cabral, who had appointed Hayden as interim executive director at the Sex Offender Registry Board and who also worked with him in the DA’s office, also offered high praise Thursday, calling Hayden a “fantastic” and “thoughtful” prosecutor.

“He’s very calm and measured. He’s incredibly fair and really does understand how a DA’s office is supposed to run,” Cabral said. “He’s a good manager of people.”

Cabral said she believes Hayden can win if he runs for a full term in office once the current term expires.

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Former Suffolk district attorney Ralph Martin, who first hired Hayden in 1997, also expects Hayden to run for election to a full term. Martin called him “an empathetic, thoughtful, diligent person who also has a really broad view of how you conduct yourself in the world.”

“I don’t think Kevin would have gone after this unless he was prepared to run,” Martin said. “He’s always been very purposeful. He can win.”

Greg Henning, a former Suffolk County prosecutor who ran unsuccessfully against Rollins in 2018, described Hayden as “very experienced.”

“He’s thoughtful and has a good temperament for the job,” said Henning, who now runs Henning Strategies, a crisis management law firm.


Andrea Estes can be reached at andrea.estes@globe.com. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.