Charlie Baker is wonkish and charismatic in western Mass.
SPRINGFIELD — Here in the state’s third-largest city, Charlie Baker ceremonially cut a long strand of sausages to mark the re-opening of an iconic German restaurant and tavern, and sipped a beer as he gladhanded patrons and posed for iPhone photos.
In Holyoke, he spoke about budget cuts and education policy.
And in Amherst, at the University of Massachusetts’ flagship campus, he met with top officials and peppered high-achieving students with questions about their areas of expertise, from hydrogen fuel cells to the mechanics of a “green roof.”
On a swing through western Massachusetts Wednesday, the governor-elect showed off sides wonkish and charismatic, all the while drawing the kind of attention he rarely encountered when his title was shorter: candidate.
At UMass’s flagship campus, Baker begin by huddling behind closed doors with top officials including UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy and University of Massachusetts President Robert L. Caret.
The governor-elect then heard presentations about various university initiatives. He leaned forward and asked lots of questions. Subbaswamy often chimed in, extolling the virtues of the place.
“This guy has the ‘sell’ hat on all the time,” Baker said good-naturedly.
The governor-elect later met with students — and no matter how far afield the topic was from what Baker might face as governor, he was ready with a thoughtful question.
Baker asked a mechanical engineering major working on green roofs about weight issues associated with water needed to keep vegetation healthy. He queried a chemical engineering major working on hydrogen fuel cells about their cost and expected lifespan.
In Holyoke, Baker met with the mayor and spoke to the press about education and the prospect of cuts resulting from a state budget gap. He said cuts to local aid — which helps cities and towns — “are off the table.”
And in the evening, in Springfield, Baker attended the festive re-opening of a longtime establishment, the Student Prince tavern and Fort restaurant.
Baker told a crowd of city movers and shakers, including Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, that he was thrilled to be in the city.
But he was also excited about something else.
“Here’s a little secret,” Baker, grinning, told the crowd, “I know a lot more about what’s available to drink in there than what’s available to eat!”
Then he went inside, grabbed a beer, and worked his way through the massive crowd in a restaurant decorated with scores of beer steins and bottle openers. He shook hands, made small talk, and posed for dozens of cell phone shots with patrons who wanted proof they had just met the governor-elect.
“This is fun,” Baker told a reporter, “because you get the reflective benefit of all these people who are so happy.”
Lingering in the packed tavern, surrounded by beer-hoisting patrons, Baker looked happy too.