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Newcomers on Beacon Hill

The State House stage remains; the actors change.

November’s election swept in a bevy of new Beacon Hill denizens, from freshly minted legislators to top aides.

And with the election of a new governor from a different party and the ascendancy of a new Senate president, the turnover in top roles across state government will be particularly profound.

New leaders mean changing centers of power in Massachusetts politics. Some will have juice from the beginning, while others are poised to build their sway over years to come.

Here are six incoming Beacon Hill politicos — Democrat and Republican, elected and appointed, in the legislative and executive branches — worth getting to know.


Steven Kadish

Will be chief of staff to Charlie Baker

Steven Kadish.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe staff

Steven Kadish has been there and he’s done that. All of it.

Worked for a Ralph Nader consumer interest outfit in Washington? Check, right after Kadish graduated from Tufts in 1978.

Served in a key role in Governor Mitt Romney’s administration? Yes, Kadish was undersecretary for health and human services for much of Romney’s term.

An organizer on Ted Kennedy’s 1980 presidential bid? Uh-huh, Kadish recalls briefly working in Iowa on the campaign’s field operation.

Worked at a top hospital to coordinate global health programs around the world and served as a high-level official at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Dartmouth College, and Northeastern University? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

Now all those years of experience will be put to the test as Kadish, 58, takes on what’s seen as the most grueling gig in Massachusetts politics.

The chief of staff is a hugely powerful position, charged with instituting the governor’s agenda, allocating staff and monetary resources, being a political consigliere, and a point of contact for big names outside government, who inevitably want something. And then there’s crisis management in a state big enough that there’s always some kind of a crisis.


Kadish (pronounced KAY-dish), who was born in Boston and raised in Framingham, has a resume that alludes to someone who has, again and again, been drawn by the prospect of new challenges and, perhaps, ambition.

But he’s also been drawn by an even stronger pull.

Kadish met the woman who would become his wife, Linda Snyder, when they were both studying at MIT in the early 1980s and fell in love. She moved to Alaska to take a job with the municipality of Anchorage before Kadish graduated from his master’s program. After a year of many long-distance phone calls and visits, Kadish decided to follow her to the Last Frontier.

“It was like: ‘OK, I’ll take this jump,’ ” Kadish said in an interview this week. “For a kid from Framingham, I think it was a big deal.”

Natasha Perez

Natasha Perez (right) stood with Michael Flaherty (center) and Sam Yoon (left). Jonathan Wiggs/Globe staff/Globe Staff

Chief of staff to presumptive Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg

Natasha Perez had to move quickly when she was the adviser on a Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign and, before that, the spokeswoman for two high-stakes Boston mayoral efforts. And she had to move carefully, helping to vastly expand the operations of Citizens Energy, former congressman Joe Kennedy II’s outfit best known for giving free home heating oil to poor people.

But moving quickly and carefully was part of Perez’s life long before she became a Democratic political aide and chief of staff to presumptive state Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg: During her college years, she was a bike courier in London.


After graduating from Amherst High School, Perez started as a student at UMass Amherst but, as the 1990s were dawning, dropped out and moved across the pond. After a stint delivering packages on two wheels, she recalls getting on a bus and roadtripping from the UK to Nepal, passing through Europe, Iran, Pakistan, and India.

In Nepal, she hiked up to the base camp of Everest. Then backpacked through Southeast Asia. Then a jaunt in Australia.

After returning to the United States, Perez, who is Cuban-American, earned a degree from UMass Boston and began doing political work for AARP.

A few years later, she got involved with a congressional campaign and, when it didn’t work out, for the candidate’s company. Perez, 45, has been the voice of Michael Flaherty’s 2009 Boston mayoral campaign and John Connolly’s 2013 bid to succeed Thomas M. Menino, and she served a short stint as an adviser to independent Jeff McCormick’s gubernatorial bid this year.

In an interview from a vacation in Hawaii with her fiancé, Perez described her career as a nexus of policy, politics, and communications and said she thinks Rosenberg hired her for her “enthusiasm for liberal issues and my generally pragmatic nature in getting results that serve the most people.”

In her new role, as the top aide to one of Beacon Hill’s three most powerful leaders, sometimes she’ll have to stay in her lane.

But getting to your destination on Beacon Hill often requires high-stakes weaving through heavy traffic, something Perez has done for decades.


Eric Lesser

Eric Lesser.Steven G. Smith for the Boston Globe

State senator-elect from Longmeadow

Eric Lesser caught the political bug early.

The four-time Longmeadow High School class president recalls knocking doors as a high school student to help pass a property tax override, as part of an effort to ensure a group of teachers wasn’t laid off after state budget cuts. The campaign was successful, many teachers kept their jobs, and for Lesser, now 29 and poised to be the Springfield-area’s newest — and the state’s youngest — senator, it was an early lesson in the power of politics.

After graduating from Harvard College, Lesser joined the Obama campaign where he rose from doing advance work in New Hampshire to being a baggage wrangler for staffers and members of the press on the campaign plane.

As the campaign became an administration, Obama senior adviser and strategist David Axelrod brought Lesser on as his special assistant in the White House. Lesser helped manage the high-pressure stream of people, memos, and requests aimed at Axelrod in his perch close to the Oval Office.

After working for Axelrod and, later, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, Lesser came back to Massachusetts in the summer of 2011 to attend Harvard Law School.

When a state Senate seat opened up this year, the Longmeadow resident, who lives with his wife and toddler daughter, took the plunge and battled four primary opponents, winning the Democratic nomination by just under 200 votes.

Lesser won the general election race by a more comfortable margin.


Axelrod said that, given Lesser’s impressive work ethic, he had no doubt he would win. Lesser is “a very, very bright, very determined, very public-spirited guy.”

In an interview, Lesser said a key to victory was that he “spent a lot of time listening.”

He’ll do a lot more of that as a new legislator in the State House. But insiders see him as having a bright — and long — future in Massachusetts politics. After all, Lesser got an early start.

Rady Mom

State representative-elect from Lowell

Joanne Rathe/Globe staff/Globe Staff

Decades ago, amid explosions and gunfire at a camp for refugees near Cambodia’s border with Thailand, Rady Mom recalls holding on tightly to the back of his dad’s shirt.

“I remember my father said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t let go of my shirttail,’ ” Mom said, his voice still tinged with emotion as he described one of the many searing experiences from his childhood in war-torn Cambodia.

He recalls living with grandparents when his mother and father were being held at a concentration camp, his family scrounging for food, and relatives falling ill with no access to medicine.

“Through the grace of God, my father got the entire family together again,” Mom said in an interview this week. “We became refugees, escaping.”

Next month, Mom will be sworn in as the first Cambodian-American elected to the state Legislature. It will mark the completion of a journey that must have seemed unlikely when he arrived in Lowell with his family at age 14, a new English speaker, after fleeing the Khmer Rouge.

Mom, 45 and a naturalized American citizen, graduated from of Greater Lowell Technical High School and then got a degree in massage therapy. Following in a family tradition, he became a healer, mixing massage with Eastern traditions such as accupressure and Qigong.

In a statement, Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said Massachusetts is a state of immigrants and that “Rady Mom comes to the House of Representatives with an inspiring personal story and a promising future.”

Mom, who is married with four children, said his first goal is to learn the job and excel at it: “I’m just looking to do the best I possibly can.”

Elizabeth Mahoney

Will be policy director for Charlie Baker

Elizabeth Mahoney. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe staff/Globe Staff

Over the course of his gubernatorial campaign Charlie Baker rolled out a lot of plans, on issues from aid to cities and towns to domestic violence prevention to reducing homelessness.

A primary shaper of them was Elizabeth Mahoney, a 31-year-old Belmont native and behind-the-scenes political pro, who is poised to become the governor’s policy guru.

Mahoney got her first taste of a serious campaign work when she was still an undergrad at Harvard College and was hooked. She subsequently worked for the state GOP, the gubernatorial campaign of Kerry Healey, and Mitt Romney’s first presidential bid.

In 2009, Mahoney joined Baker’s initial gubernatorial effort, serving as research director. One of her areas of focus was opposition research: tracking what opponents have said and done, and crafting storylines that could be politically damaging based on that information.

“People are sort of amused when I tell them I did that because I’m a fairly upbeat, positive nice person,” Mahoney said in an interview. “And they joke, because I was working in the dark arts.”

Mahoney, whose father, brother, and one of her sisters graduated from West Point, served as policy director during Baker’s 2014 campaign. Colleagues say she ground out extremely long days with a military-style work ethic, but leavened them with bonhomie. She was among Baker’s very first picks after he won his race against Democrat Martha Coakley.

Aides say Mahoney will be the governor’s right-hand woman on policy, diving into high-profile issues and boiling down the options.

She’ll also be a keeper of the Baker agenda, focusing on implementation.

In the State House, where there are many clashing agendas, bringing ordered follow-through will be more high art than dark art.

And it won’t hurt that Mahoney always has a plan.

Tim Buckley

Tim Buckley.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe staff/Globe Staff

Will be communications director for Charlie Baker

After he graduated from college, Medfield native Tim Buckley spent some time in between.

In between gigs, in between politics and policy, and in between two skis.

He worked at a nonprofit that helped immigrants find their way to citizenship, as a concierge at a hotel in Colorado, on a state representative race, and in a Dedham ski shop.

But now Buckley, 30, will be in the mix — with just about everything.

The governor’s communications director is, in theory, a big-picture job, focused on strategizing the rollout of major initiatives and plans weeks, months, and years in advance as well as advising the state’s chief executive on how to convey the administration’s agenda to the public.

But in practice, say those who have done it, it’s something more like manning an emergency room: There’s a lot of triage.

The position requires responding to reporter inquiries day and night and keeping tabs on burgeoning problems in the sprawling state bureaucracy. Buckley acknowledges he’ll be a bit of an “air traffic controller” overseeing messaging in the secretariats of the executive branch.

A South Boston resident known as a diligent worker, Buckley can be hard-nosed, growling at the press on occasion during his tenure as Baker ’14 campaign spokesman. But colleagues say a smile and a joke are the former state GOP communications director’s base line.

And, in unguarded moments, Buckley’s earnestness, his genuine admiration for his boss — who, he says, inspires him to work harder and learn more — and his deep appreciation of his family, will break through, even to members of the media.

“I have parents who are still out in Medfield, who really truly did bend over backwards not only to send me to college, but to help me out when I was in between things,” said Buckley, adding that he tries to get dinner with them and his sister once a month.

“In this whole political world,” Buckley said, “especially when you’re a Republican in Massachusetts, you’re often in between things.”

Not anymore.

Joshua Miller can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.