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Governor-elect Charlie Baker names labor secretary

First person of color to join cabinet

Ronald L. Walker II
Ronald L. Walker IIHandout

Governor-elect Charlie Baker has named Ronald L. Walker II the state’s next secretary of labor, making Walker the first person of color to join the Cabinet.

Walker, 53, is also a Democrat, according to Baker’s spokesman, making him the fourth appointment across the aisle for the incoming Republican governor.

Walker is chairman of the board of The BASE, a Roxbury mentoring center offering sports and academic opportunities to black and Latino youths. Baker often featured The BASE during his campaign for governor, rallying supporters there and highlighting its founder, Robert Lewis Jr., as one of his key supporters from the black community.

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Lewis said on Friday that Walker provides an ideal example for the young people he guides at The BASE. On Friday, when he told the young people at the center about Walker’s appointment, they applauded, he said.

“Besides all the accolades, he’s a go-getter. He’s a manager. He’s strategic. He’s a bridge-builder,” Lewis said. “He’s one of the few presidents or black leaders of significance in the private sector and he grew up in the ’hood.”

Walker was a cofounder of Next Street, a merchant bank that offers capital to entrepreneurs in urban markets. He is also a director of Emerson College, and he previously held executive posts at Sovereign Bank and Fleet Financial Group. Two years ago, Governor Deval Patrick officiated at Walker’s wedding.

“Ron’s experience will serve him well as he takes on the job of connecting our administration’s job training and workforce development services with employers, ensuring they expand and grow here,” Baker said in a statement.

“I look forward to Ron bringing the new, innovative approach he took in his role at Next Street to this important post, and I am thrilled to have him on board,” Baker added. “He has worked to earn incredible success over his career and he will be invaluable to our efforts in bridging the gap between work and education to make Massachusetts great everywhere.”

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Walker is also a former chairman of the board of the Roxbury Comprehensive Community Health Center, a neighborhood mainstay that was was abruptly shuttered last year when it was unable to pay its bills. The center was placed in receivership and forced to relinquish its federal grants and its state license from the Department of Public Health.

Baker spokesman Tim Buckley said that Walker left the board well before the issues arose.

Walker did not respond to requests for comment. But he said in a statement that he was honored to join the administration and humbled by the opportunity to serve the people of the Commonwealth.

“I share the governor-elect’s emphasis on connecting education to work, his commitment to workforce development, and look forward to helping carry out his mission to make Massachusetts a great place to live and work in every region of the Commonwealth,” Walker’s statement said.

Baker, a Republican who had been unsuccessful in his 2010 campaign for governor, made a point this year of reaching out to communities of color and other urban wards he was not expected to win — an effort that resulted in minimizing his losses and forging new alliances.


Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert @globe.com.