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As expected, top Baker aide Jay Ash lands job as CEO of powerful business group

Jay Ash is stepping down as the state’s secretary of housing and economic development.David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe

Jay Ash won’t get much time off after he leaves the Baker administration on Dec. 28. He’ll be starting his new job at the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership on Jan. 2.

The move was widely expected. Ash, Governor Charlie Baker’s top economic chief, had disclosed in November that he was interviewing for the CEO job at the business advocacy group, and the administration announced Ash’s pending departure on Tuesday. Mike Kennealy will take over Ash’s job as the state’s housing and economic development secretary.

Ash will replace Dan O’Connell, who has been CEO at the Partnership since its inception in 2010 and is retiring at the end of the year. O’Connell once held Ash’s state job, but in Governor Deval Patrick’s Cabinet. Ash becomes the CEO for a group of CEOs: Nearly all of the 17 Partnership members are chief executives of major employers in the state.


Putnam Investments chief executive Bob Reynolds said the group’s initial interest in Ash dates back five years to when Ash was city manager in Chelsea. The timing wasn’t right then, but it is now.

“He just has proven himself with the work he’s done, working across party lines, working with businesses across the state,” said Reynolds, who chairs the Partnership board. “Jay brings it all to the table.”

The Partnership board picked Ash last week for the job. Also last week, the Partnership named Vertex CEO Jeff Leiden as vice chairman. That puts Leiden on track to take over for Reynolds when he eventually steps down as chairman.

Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.