Every morning, Kim Driscoll starts her day in Salem, where her time as the five-term mayor is quickly winding down before she is sworn in as lieutenant governor on Thursday.
She meets with staff to prepare her transition out of city hall, and then switches gears, logging onto Zoom or heading into Boston, where she is heading up her new boss’s transition team.
She interviews candidates for jobs and Cabinet positions in the incoming administration, and connects with members of her transition committees, who have been working for weeks on drafting policy proposals for the new governor and her lieutenant to consider.
“It’s early starts and long nights,” Driscoll told the Globe, noting that every day also includes a call with Governor-elect Maura Healey. “I wish I had two more hours in each day.”
Lieutenant governors in Massachusetts don’t have much official power. According to the commonwealth’s Constitution, their only duties are to step in if the governor becomes too sick to serve, dies, or leaves office, and to sit on the Governor’s Council.
But as the Healey administration prepares to take the corner office, Driscoll has taken an active role as chair of the transition team.
Driscoll and Healey favor tag-team interviews with potential hires. They meet with current secretaries, job seekers, and transition staff, and have even developed an interviewing cadence that keeps them on track, she said. Once the interview wraps, they “round up” and synthesize all they learned.
While some call her role in the transition atypical, Driscoll disagrees, saying she is taking her cue from Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, who was known for visiting all 351 of Massachusetts’ cities and towns and serving as a key sounding board for Governor Charlie Baker. Polito headed up Baker’s transition team in 2014.
Those close to the incoming administration say Driscoll’s executive experience as the mayor of Salem has made all the difference in her leadership style and ability to vet and hire talent.
On the campaign trail, she touted her COVID-19 pandemic response, and her work on housing affordability and education in Salem. She says her experience on the local level helps her better understand whom the administration needs to hire to best serve residents statewide.
“She has seen it from the other side,” Baker said in an interview with the Globe this past week.
Ultimately, Driscoll’s role as lieutenant governor will be defined by how Healey envisions it. But Driscoll said the two don’t talk about the role she’ll play as much as they discuss how they plan to build a team that helps them accomplish their goals.
“There is so much work ahead of us,” she said. “Right now, [the inauguration] is a date on the calendar, but it’s becoming more real . . . we are all going to need to be recruiters-in-chief.”
While several Cabinet hires have been announced, Healey and Driscoll haven’t filled several senior executive branch positions, including secretaries of Labor and Workforce Development, Housing and Economic Development, Health and Human Services, Public Safety and Security, and Technology Services and Security.
Members of the incoming administration’s six transition committees said Driscoll’s involvement and open lines of communication signal continued involvement on the part of the new lieutenant governor.
She attended some of the committees’ Zoom meetings, but mostly left the 156 members alone to do their work. Healey and Driscoll asked the committees, formed around distinct policy areas, to create a document of priorities and action items for the administration.
Driscoll set the tone by reminding members of the urgency of their work, and by telling them that the recommendations they craft would be foundational to the administration’s initial policy platform, according to Steve Grossman, a former state treasurer and chief executive of the Roxbury nonprofit Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, who served as a member of the transition committee related to jobs and the economy.
Driscoll said that those recommendations, which have been completed, will eventually be made public.
“This was far from a ceremonial process,” Grossman said. “I have no doubt whatsoever about Kim Driscoll having read the document, synthesized it, absorbed it, and linked it to other similar reports.”
Grossman and others on the transition committees say they feel optimistic that Driscoll’s approach to the process will continue in the administration once she officially takes the role. Her willingness to meet with local leaders and take their input signals collaboration in the months and years ahead, they say.
“It’s a symbol that she would be accessible and be a great leader along with Maura as a lieutenant governor from the get-go,” said María Belén Power, a member of the climate-focused transition committee. Power leads the community organization GreenRoots in Chelsea, where Driscoll served as deputy city manager and chief legal counsel before she ran for Salem mayor.
For Rebecca Hart Holder, president of Boston-based Reproductive Equity Now, having an ally who will be involved in decision-making is a welcome sign.
“She is talented at the granularity of policy-making,” said Hart Holder, who served on the health-focused transition committee. “It gives me a lot of hope and excitement about the type of leader she wants to be.”
Samantha J. Gross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @samanthajgross.