In the weeks before he left Beacon Hill, former governor Charlie Baker installed nearly 170 people on state boards and commissions, moves that could extend the Republican’s influence for years even as his Democratic successor seeks to make her imprint on the state’s bureaucracy.
The slew of 11th-hour appointees — Baker named dozens in his final three days alone — featured members of Baker’s staff, including his former chief of staff who scored a board seat the day of Governor Maura Healey‘s inauguration.
Baker also tapped a high-ranking Republican Party official to serve on the board of a business-focused quasi-public agency. And two former GOP state representatives whose terms were ending snagged new roles, including a $120,000-a-year state Civil Service post.
Many of the positions are unpaid, but Baker’s selections could shape policy in areas including climate change, the state’s technology sector, transportation, and more, well beyond his tenure. Several of their appointments span Healey’s current four-year term. Some could last until 2028.
A rush of last-minute gubernatorial appointments isn’t unusual. Mitt Romney named more than 200 GOP activists, state employees, and others to boards and commissions during his final month in office in 2006. Deval Patrick tapped 150 for various panels over his final weeks in 2014, and 300 over his final six months.
Baker, in comparison, made 169 appointments over his final 30 days, according to a tally provided by Healey’s administration. A portion of those — 52 in total — were reappointments.
But while Romney and Baker both sought to immediately undo their predecessors’ selections, Healey so far has not. A Healey aide said Friday that the Cambridge Democrat has not rescinded any of Baker’s late selections, and at this point, many cannot be quickly repealed. A 60-year-old state law allows a new governor to rescind certain appointees within 15 days, but many of them either fall outside the limited scope of that statute or the appointees have been in place beyond that roughly two-week window.
As a gubernatorial candidate, Healey rarely criticized Baker, and often echoed the Swampscott Republican in tone and policy. In at least one instance, she reappointed Terrence Reidy, the state’s public safety secretary and a member of Baker’s Cabinet, to her own.
Karissa Hand, a Healey spokeswoman, did not directly address whether the governor believed the slew of appointments should have been left to her to make.
“Our administration is committed to making sure we have a strong team in place,” Hand said.
Baker was especially active in filling various posts just as Healey’s inauguration neared. He made at least 60 appointments in the first week of January, including at least three dozen the day he took the ceremonial “Lone Walk” out of the State House. He made at least 10 more on Jan. 5, the day of Healey’s swearing-in, according to a batch of appointment letters his office filed with the secretary of state’s office.
One of his final appointees on that day was Kristen Lepore, his former chief of staff and budget chief whom Baker named to a four-year post on the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority board. A day before, Baker also named Elissa Flynn-Poppey, an attorney at the firm Mintz, to the convention center board, and Dean Serpa, a former deputy chief of staff in his office, to the Gaming Policy Advisory Committee. All three are unpaid positions.
Days earlier, he installed former state representative Shawn Dooley on the state’s Civil Service Commission, boosting the Norfolk Republican’s pay well beyond the $70,000 base salary he made as a lawmaker. Dooley lost a bid for the state Senate in November.
Baker also tapped Tim Whelan, a former state lawmaker who ran unsuccessfully to be Barnstable County sheriff, for a seat on the state Department of Transportation board. Whelan, a Brewster Republican, was one of four people Baker either named or reappointed to that panel in the final days of December, when he also appointed Chanda Smart to the MBTA’s board of directors.
A Baker aide defended the governor’s late-hour selections, noting that Lepore in particular had previously sat on the MCCA board during the more than 2 1/2 years she was Baker’s budget chief.
“For eight years, the Baker-Polito administration increased the number of women, people of color, and people from underrepresented regions of the commonwealth serving on boards and commissions,” Baker adviser Jim Conroy said in a statement. “The Baker Administration is grateful these and hundreds [of other] qualified individuals were willing to serve.”
But some Democrats questioned the flurry of last-minute maneuvering. State Representative William M. Straus — a Mattapoisett Democrat who’s been critical of Baker’s decision to fill the transportation posts before Healey’s term began — said they weren’t integral to ensuring the boards could meet, but rather “were purely an outgoing administration trying to help people who wanted appointments.”
“It’s an awkward place to put any new administration, regardless of party. Perhaps the entire topic should be revisited,” Straus said of the rules around last-minute appointment-making. “Because I think the public expects that when a new governor gets elected . . . at the same time, it’s also electing an administration.”
Under a state law, gubernatorial appointments are subject to repeal within 15 days after they are made, but only under certain arcane circumstances. For example, Healey could have repealed appointments to agencies if they existed before that 1964 law went into effect and they were subject to the approval of the Governor’s Council at that time.
Romney, for example, immediately rescinded 27 lame-duck appointments made by Acting Governor Jane Swift when he first took office. When his first term started in 2015, Baker also sought to void “any and all appointments,” that Patrick made after Christmas 2014, which was a total of 63.
Such a blanket rescission was an unusual move in itself, and Baker’s legal staff ultimately determined that he ultimately had the authority to pull back just a few of the 63.
Eight years later, Baker’s late-term maneuvering affected a swath of boards and posts. He tapped a new chairman of the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission; appointed at least two dozen people as trustees to various community colleges; and installed six more for five-year appointments on a Grid Modernization Advisory Council, a panel created under a sweeping climate bill that Baker signed in August.
The day before New Year’s Eve, he appointed Janet Fogarty, a Massachusetts GOP national committeewoman, to the board of directors for the Mass. Growth Capital Corporation, a quasi-public agency designed to promote small businesses and economic development. She is slated to hold the post until mid-2027.
Baker’s last-minute influence did not affect only boards and commissions. In early December, the state’s economic development finance agency, whose board is stocked with Baker appointees, extended the contract of its president, Dan Rivera, until June 30, 2026. Rivera, a Democrat and former Lawrence mayor, is a close ally of the former governor and endorsed Baker in his 2018 reelection bid.
In October, Baker also reappointed Dr. Mindy Hull, the state’s chief medical examiner, to a new five-year term, keeping the executive branch’s highest-paid employee in place through 2027. She makes more than $420,000 a year.
Carmen Arce-Bowen, who served as director of personnel and administration for Patrick, said that beyond policies and programs, a governor can also leave a footprint “through talent,” regardless of the timing of the appointments.
“If I were to be governor — really any governor — why not take that chance to extend your legacy and your values through the people you set up in these positions?” she said. “Why not do it?”
Matt Stout can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.