Maura Healey, who soared to victory promising to sustain the state’s economic prosperity and expand it to those it has eluded, was sworn in Thursday as Massachusetts’ 73rd governor, making history as the first woman ever elected to the post and one of the nation’s first openly lesbian governors.
In her inaugural address, Healey struck an optimistic tone about the state’s future, but also spoke about its greatest challenges: the urgency of the housing crisis and the dire state of the transit infrastructure; the pandemic that has claimed tens of thousands of lives; and a climate crisis that demands immediate response.
She envisioned a state that would continue to draw people but also make it affordable for them to stay, pitching a wide-ranging agenda to a Democratic Legislature that seemed eager to embrace it.
“We have untold wealth in the Commonwealth. But record public revenue does little good when families can’t pay the rent, buy a home, heat their home, or pay for child care,” Healey said from the rostrum inside a packed House chamber. “This is — this is! — the greatest state in the union. It is. But people are leaving, at rates we don’t like, giving up on the Massachusetts story.”
Residents “can’t realize their dreams,” she added, “until we end the nightmare of high costs.”
Healey lamented the housing costs and low homeownership rates. She called Massachusetts a “gleaming example of liberty and equality and success,” but said “too many states are trying to pass us by.”
But she said she was energized, not daunted, by those challenges.
“Where others may see hopelessness and resignation, I see unparalleled opportunity,” Healey said. “And I believe Massachusetts can, and will, lead the world.”
Hitting many of the same notes she struck in her campaign, the Cambridge Democrat pledged to spread the state’s immense resources to its neediest residents, including through an expanded child tax credit and tax deductions for renters. She promised to appoint a safety chief to inspect the MBTA and fight for federal funding to repair transportation infrastructure.
“Let’s face it,” she said. “The state of our trains and roads and bridges today is unacceptable.”
On the environment, she began to sketch out what may prove to be a signature legacy pitch: a “climate corridor” that would create new jobs in clean tech and environmental justice, modeled after the $1 billion effort shepherded by former governor Deval Patrick to make the state a life sciences hub.
Healey, 51, takes the governor’s office back for Democrats after eight years with a GOP leader, putting her party fully in control on Beacon Hill, where it has long enjoyed super-majorities in both legislative chambers and held most other statewide constitutional offices.
But the flip from red to blue may not radically change much in the State House.
Healey has embraced the collaborative approach and moderate politics of her predecessor, Republican Governor Charlie Baker. Her climate tech focus, for example, echoes a second-term effort by Baker that failed in the Legislature. And Healey sounded numerous centrist notes in her speech, promising to cut costs, emphasizing the need to grow the workforce, and telling business leaders that “in us, you’ll have partners every step of the way.”
Senate minority leader Bruce E. Tarr told reporters at the State House that the issues “raised yesterday by the outgoing governor and throughout his administration” were “the same issues being raised today by the incoming governor.”
“There’s a continuity there that transcends party,” the Gloucester Republican said.
Healey nonetheless won praise from prominent Democrats, who cited her focus on issues such as transportation and housing. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, a progressive who is to the left of Healey on some issues, said Thursday, “I am completely in sync with this administration.”
And Senator Michael J. Barrett praised Healey’s climate tech vision, saying, “The Healey stamp, joined with Baker’s prior initiative, gives it that bipartisan character that we really need.”
“This sort of stuff takes a lot of work,” the Lexington Democrat said. “You don’t want to do it at the end of an eight-year term. . . . So the timing is right to make good on those kinds of ideas.”
Excited supporters were packed into the State House to celebrate the historic day, wearing blue wristbands as they waited for the ceremony to begin. Newly sworn-in state lawmakers and members of the public snapped photos.
Dignitaries in attendance included at least three former governors — Patrick, Michael Dukakis, and Bill Weld. Senator Edward Markey also attended; Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is recovering from foot surgery, was not present.
Healey is “a groundbreaker in so many ways,” said John Kerry, the former US senator and current climate envoy for the Biden administration who attended Thursday’s swearing-in. “She’s going to be terrific. I think it’s exciting not just for Massachusetts, but for the country to be embracing the future.”
Yet it’s unclear how wholeheartedly Democratic lawmakers will embrace other key planks of her agenda. The new governor promised to fund 1,000 more jobs for the MBTA, for example. But amid the labor shortage, the agency already has 1,300 funded but vacant posts.
“Right now they have so many openings that they cannot fill,” Senate President Karen E. Spilka said at the State House. “So I would love to hear a plan.”
House Speaker Ronald Mariano has not committed to pursuing tax cuts that Healey and others favor. He said earlier this week that he will wait to see where the economy goes.
“Then we’ll make a decision,” the Quincy Democrat said.
Healey took the oath of office just after 12:30 p.m. in the House chamber, with her hand on a family Bible that had belonged to her great-great-grandmother Henrietta Porter.
Spilka administered the oath to both Healey and incoming Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll, moments that spotlighted how many of the state’s top government posts are now held by women. Healey and Driscoll make up one of the nation’s first all-women state executive teams, and will soon lead a slate of constitutional office holders that is almost entirely women for the first time in Massachusetts history.
“I assume this office as the first woman and first gay person ever elected governor of Massachusetts,” Healey said. “But every one of us — every one of us — is a first. You may be a first-generation immigrant, choosing Massachusetts as the foundation for your American dream. You may be the first in your family to go to college, the first in your neighborhood to start a business.”
“In this state,” Healey added, “we’re all trailblazers.”
Healey celebrated the occasion Thursday evening with a “Moving the Ball Forward” celebration at TD Garden, featuring six-time Grammy Award-winner Brandi Carlile.
And the festivities didn’t seem likely to end there.
During her speech Thursday, Driscoll acknowledged her 89-year-old father, a Navy veteran, and joked, “I’m sure there’s going to be some Johnnie Walker Black in our future today.”
And then comes the business of governing. Healey’s speech included a number of self-imposed deadlines: 60 days to hire a safety chief for the MBTA; 100 days to file legislation creating a new secretariat of housing. And she plans to convene a meeting with her partially filled Cabinet on Friday.
Before they entered the House chamber for the ceremony, Healey and Driscoll — both former college basketball players — high-fived.
“Let’s do this,” Driscoll said.
Samantha J. Gross and Tiana Woodard of the Globe staff contributed to this report.