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‘An extension of Maura’: Meet Tara Healey, sister, confidante, adviser to Massachusetts’ next governor

Maura Healey, with her sister Tara at an AFL-CIO rally.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

One of the most influential minds behind Massachusetts’ next governor talks like her, thinks like her, and sometimes even looks like her.

Tara Healey, 42, is Governor-elect Maura Healey’s youngest sibling, confidante, and adviser of nearly a decade.

She has the same affect, the same smile, and the same competitive political acumen that propelled her sister from little-known political newcomer to the attorney general’s office and now an historic victory as the first woman and LGBTQ person elected to the state’s top job. In Tara’s case, that drive makes her invaluable to the Healey operation.

The months ahead will test the success of this partnership, as the elder Healey sister readies to move into the corner office in January — the first Democrat to do so in nearly a decade.

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Those close to the governor-elect say Tara is key to her sister’s success.

“She’s her eyes and ears,” said former House speaker Robert DeLeo, who has helped Healey fund-raise during her gubernatorial campaign. “[Maura] hit the lottery having a sister like that.”

Unlike her sister, a statewide elected official who commands a room, Tara has an understated presence. At events, she chats with attendees and welcomes longtime supporters with a hug. Sometimes, you can spy her standing shoulder to shoulder with her sister, whispering into her ear before the elder Healey takes the stage. More often, she stands in the background, watching. Either way, her presence is constant.

As executive director of the gubernatorial campaign, Tara was one of the most important figures in the Healey operation. She keeps her sister grounded in ways no one but family can, those close to her say, and serves as a proxy when her sister can’t be in the room. It’s a role she’s played since the attorney general’s nascent 2014 campaign.

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Those who have known both sisters say that while some politicians’ priorities change when they reach a certain point in their career, Tara knows who her sister is at the deepest level and has a special ability to keep the politician true to her core values.

In a recent interview, Tara Healey said she is able to have conversations that would be difficult coming from someone else, but her sister trusts that she’s “only coming from a good place.”

“I think folks feel like I am an extension of Maura,” Tara told the Globe. “I appreciate that.”

Beyond the close relationship with her oldest sister, Tara’s relationship-building skills — self-taught on the campaign trail — set a standard for the rest of the staff. She said that her background in sociology informs her networking skills and that she can build relationships in even the most unlikely places.

One of Maura Healey’s closest political allies is AFL-CIO President Steven Tolman, whose brother, former Democratic state lawmaker Warren Tolman, ran against then-newcomer Healey in the highly competitive 2014 Democratic primary for attorney general. The two have become close as labor has lined up behind Healey in her subsequent races, a relationship Tara prides herself on maintaining.

“She is friends with labor because they trust her,” Tolman said.

The fall election was the most recent test of Tara’s political savvy and fund-raising abilities, an accumulation of years of relationship-building with elected officials, plugged-in community leaders, and perhaps most notably, the state’s well-connected labor unions. According to interviews with former staff who worked on both Healey’s campaigns for attorney general and governor, Tara’s natural ability to make long-lasting connections were invaluable to raising money and securing endorsements for the campaign.

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The work paid dividends.

Healey raised $5 million this cycle, outraising her Republican opponent more than fourfold.

Tara and Maura — both former Winnacunnet High School point guards — share a competitive spirit and a can-do attitude. Indeed, the near-constant basketball references the elder sister deployed throughout her campaign, and continues to feature during her transition to governor, can often be attributed to Tara Healey. In fact, it was Tara’s idea to have her sister’s inauguration party, aptly themed “Moving the Ball Forward,” at TD Garden.

Tara said she’d “never bet against” her sister, a sentiment that has played out on all three of the Healey campaigns: her first campaign for attorney general, her reelection campaign four years later, and her recent winning campaign for governor.

“We’re just, like, really lucky,” said Corey Welford, a longtime Healey adviser. “There’s no barrier between them.”

At an early voting campaign event hosted by the AFL-CIO in Dorchester, Tara Healey mingled with labor union workers and leaders, blending into the crowd in an understated black blouse and jeans. As the governor-elect prepared to speak from the podium, Tara followed her toward the stage. She fixed the collar on the politician’s jacket and whispered to her.

As she took the stage, Tara looked on proudly, leaning against the hood of a pickup truck alongside Healey’s running mate, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll.

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“It’s always so great to know that she’s there. She has my back,” Maura Healey told the Globe at the campaign event. “She knows me so well. So that makes a big difference.”

The youngest of the five Healey siblings broke into the political world shortly after her sister announced her first run in October 2013.

She had recently graduated from an MBA program at then-Simmons College with the goal of replicating the work she did as the director of a Medford group home with a nonprofit of her own.

“I had my whole business plan, and I graduated, I was super pumped,” she said. “And then Maura announced.”

Maura Healey had her jacket collar adjusted by her sister Tara at an AFL-CIO rally before the attorney general spoke.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Tara put her nonprofit goals on ice and began making phone calls from the tiny Charlestown office that served as her sister’s first campaign headquarters.

She worked with the small team to get the campaign off the ground, usually with her tiny, deaf, toothless dog, Kita, in tow. In the meantime, she worked as a waitress and bartender but kept her schedule flexible for when campaign duties called.

In 2015, the newly inaugurated attorney general needed a dedicated political-side staff to continue to build the operation and raise money for the next campaign. She turned to her youngest sister.

The Healey siblings were raised in Hampton Falls, N.H., where a revolving door of presidential candidates cycled through the first-in-the-nation primary.

Even so, Tara said: “I never thought that I would be doing this type of work and never be in politics.”

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“I don’t think Maura ever thought that she would be a politician, either,” she said. “But here we are.”

Nearly a decade since the early days of the first campaign, Tara is still her right-hand woman. She ran the show as her sister’s gubernatorial campaign’s executive director and is heavily involved in inauguration planning. She makes trips around the state on her sister’s behalf, driving her white SUV from her home in Newburyport, where she moved earlier this year.

Since 2015, the younger Healey has made at least $379,391 in salary and stipends on her sister’s payroll. She’s made $76,226 since Maura announced in January, marking 2022 as her most lucrative year since she was tapped to fill the role.

Tara is aware of the political optics that come with being employed by family, which she counters with the logic that “you still have to put gas in your car.”

She said that unlike other consultants who advise the incoming governor, she doesn’t have any other clients. Plus, her loyalty and trust are invaluable, she said.

“I have a good sense of where her head is at, how she would react to things,” Tara said. “I am the only one on the campaign that has known her literally my entire life.”

While she will not have an official role in the administration, she will continue to work on her sister’s political operation.

For the governor-elect, politics has always been a family affair. Her stepfather, Edward Beattie, is a constant presence on the campaign trail and is always willing to drive long distances to drop off yard signs. Her mother, Tracy Healey-Beattie, makes phone calls and can be found standing outside with a campaign sign in tow. And of course, Tara is involved in daily decision-making and strategy.

Maura Healey has always been central to the family dynamic.

When Healey-Beattie was parenting solo, Maura drove her four younger siblings to school and work, and worked multiple jobs to help bolster the family’s income.

The family work ethic is one both Tara and Maura say has translated to their careers. Tara said the governor-elect’s approach to campaigning reflects the scrappiness of their upbringing. No gesture is too small, she said, and no day too long. Tara will spend a day in crucial strategy meetings and then take out the office trash or drive around the state to deliver yard signs.

When Tara graduated from Northeastern, she moved into her sister’s Brookline apartment, where she slept in the pantry-turned-bedroom she painted orange and blue. Both sisters lived in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood for a time, until the attorney general moved to the South End and, later, Cambridge. Tara said she recently moved to Newburyport.

“You should see our family text messages,” Tara said, laughing. “It’s very colorful.”


Samantha J. Gross can be reached at samantha.gross@globe.com. Follow her @samanthajgross.