Baker taps Northeastern official as chief of staff

Kadish is second Democrat picked

Steven Kadish is chief operating officer at NU.
Steven Kadish is chief operating officer at NU.Northeastern Univ

Republican Governor-elect Charlie Baker on Monday named Northeastern University’s chief operating officer, a Democrat, to serve as his top aide as he continues filling senior positions for the executive branch he will take over in January.

Steven Kadish, who like Baker has worked at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and in the state’s health and human services bureaucracy, will serve as chief of staff, one of state government’s most powerful and high-pressure roles. Charged with implementing the governor’s agenda, chiefs of staff must corral Cabinet secretaries, lawmakers, and outside interests, provide advice to the governor, and often serve as the governor’s political enforcer.


Governor Deval Patrick has cycled through six chiefs of staff in his nearly eight years in office.

Also Monday, Baker announced that Republican state Representative Matthew Beaton, co-owner of a construction firm that promotes use of environmentally friendly techniques on its projects, would serve as his energy and environmental affairs secretary.

Since his election over Attorney General Martha Coakley on Nov. 4, much of the speculation in political circles has centered on whom Baker would pick as chief of staff as a potential indicator of his governing style.

A Baker adviser said Kadish, 58, had emerged from a very short list of candidates that Baker had assembled, with an emphasis on non-ideological thinking. He is the second Democrat appointed to a top position by Baker.

“How many people do you know who worked in the Romney administration and also for MassPIRG?” the adviser asked, referring to the left-leaning advocacy group, where Kadish decades ago advocated for expansion of the state’s “bottle bill.” Baker this year opposed a ballot question that would have increased the reach of the recycling law.

In Kadish, Baker is looking past the public sector for a top aide with long experience in education and health care. In addition to 12 years in a range of state government positions, Kadish also worked as senior vice president for administration and project management at Harvard Pilgrim and as director of global health equity at Brigham & Women’s Hospital.


A transition official said that Kadish’s compensation had not been determined yet but would likely be in line with those of his predecessors. Under Patrick, salaries varied for chiefs of staff, generally hovering in the range of $140,000.

At Northeastern, Kadish was also a senior vice president and oversaw the facilities, human resources, and information services departments, according to a university biography. Before Northeastern, Kadish was executive vice president and chief financial officer at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

Kadish moved from Dartmouth to Northeastern in 2012. A Baker transition official said that, at Northeastern, Kadish oversaw up to 700 employees and up to 200 contractors.

Baker has said he plans to mine the extensive networks he has constructed over decades in Massachusetts public and corporate life as he begins staffing his administration.

The early personnel process has not been entirely smooth. Richard L. Taylor, a former state transportation chief, stepped down on Friday from a leadership role on Baker’s transition team after the Globe asked him about unpaid tax and business judgments.

In picking Kadish and Beaton, Baker continues to range across the political spectrum. Beaton is considered one of the House’s more conservative members, and already on Monday there was grumbling among environmental advocates about his appointment.


Voting records current through November 2013 show that Kadish is a Democrat, as is Chelsea’s city manager, Jay Ash, whom Baker announced as his housing and economic development secretary last week.

A Globe review of state campaign finance records showed that Kadish has donated to Democratic candidates, including this year to Don Berwick, the former federal health care administrator who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Kadish also donated this year to Baker and Lieutenant Governor-elect Karyn Polito.

Northeastern senior vice president Mike Armini said the school was “delighted that Steve is going to play a critical role in Governor Baker’s administration. Public service is in Steve’s blood.”

Baker announced his pick of Beaton, a Shrewsbury representative and Worcester Polytechnic Institute graduate, to lead the Energy and Environmental Affairs secretariat earlier on Monday.

In a statement, Baker said that his goals included lowering energy costs and reducing the state’s carbon footprint. He said that Beaton “has the right experience to carry out our administration’s green energy initiatives and to protect the Commonwealth’s open spaces.’’

Beaton, 36, has an undergraduate degree in biotechnology from WPI and a master’s degree in energy and environmental analysis from Boston University, according to the Baker transition office.

Beaton said in a press release that “as an avid sportsman, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to promote the preservation and accessibility of our precious natural resources.”

Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at jim.osullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports. John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.