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The highs and lows of Deval Patrick’s tenure as governor

Deval Patrick at a State House news conference in 2012.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Like any two-term governor, Deval Patrick had some highs and lows during his time in the corner office on Beacon Hill.

Now that he’s once again mulling a possible bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nod, pundits will probably rehash the good and the bad as they take stock of his chances in the crowded field, which includes US Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Cambridge Democrat.

Here’s a recap of achievements Patrick would probably highlight on the stump, as well as a few moments he’d rather forget:

1. Pension reform — In 2011, Patrick signed an overhaul of the public pension system into law. The measure aimed to save the state $5 billion over three decades and reduce the state’s $17 billion unfunded pension liability.


He said after a signing ceremony that the new law would help end pension abuses that “set everyone’s teeth on edge, including my own.”

The law included a provision to raise the minimum state retirement age from 55 to 60 for state workers hired after April 2, 2012.

2. Casino legalization — Shortly after taking office in 2007, Patrick launched a drive to bring casino gambling to Massachusetts. Four years later, he signed the state’s gaming bill into law.

Patrick and other supporters maintained that casinos would help reduce unemployment and revitalize the state budget. Opponents countered that the state would lose money combating increased crime and residents’ quality of life would be diminished through increased addiction.

As he prepared to leave office in 2015, Patrick said he felt casinos, while “never a centerpiece of our economic-growth strategy,” would ultimately “be good.” He cited what he called “a very modest entry into the expansion of gaming” and added that “the human costs are real but, I think, limited.”


The law paved the way for casinos currently operating in Springfield and Everett, as well as a Plainville slot parlor.

3. DCF problems — Patrick in 2013 presided over a high-profile tragedy at the Department of Children and Families, the state’s child welfare agency.

His administration came under scrutiny after Jeremiah Oliver, a Fitchburg boy, disappeared in September 2013, about three months shy of his fifth birthday and nearly four months after a DCF social worker had last visited the child. Jeremiah’s body was found in April 2014 off a Sterling highway.

The DCF fired the social worker, supervisor, and manager responsible for ensuring Jeremiah’s well-being. Olga Roche, then the agency’s commissioner, said the social worker’s failure to visit the boy’s home every month represented “a gross disregard of policies and procedures” but also a “unique circumstance.”

4. Gay marriage — The state Supreme Judicial Court legalized gay marriage in Massachusetts in 2003, years before Patrick took office. But Patrick, whose daughter Katherine married a woman in 2016, lent his support to the cause in July 2008, when he signed a bill repealing a 1913 law that barred couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their union would not be valid in their own states.

Soon after the Legislature passed the measure, Patrick called the vote “not just a vote for marriage equality. It was a vote for equality itself.”

5. Parole board overhaul — Patrick’s team was placed on the defensive when Domenic Cinelli, a career criminal who shot a security guard in 1985, killed Woburn police Officer John Maguire in December 2010, just months after the Parole Board had voted unanimously to free him.


Patrick swiftly directed the board to review the decision, and in January 2011, he announced a sweeping overhaul of the panel that included the resignations of five members.

“After this review, I cannot say that the Parole Board or parole office did all they could to ensure public safety,’’ Patrick told reporters.

Parole eligibility requirements were also tightened, and the percentage of parole-eligible inmates released from prisons plunged from 58 percent in 2010 to 39 percent in 2011.

6. Transportation reform — In June 2009, Patrick signed a bill into law that eliminated the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and reorganized the rest of the state transportation system.

It also eliminated a controversial pension perk for MBTA workers that had long allowed them to retire with 57 percent of their salary after 23 years, regardless of age.

When he signed the bill, Patrick said it would put an end to what he called “the Big Dig culture of deception, patronage, and waste,” and vowed that it would usher in a “new era of streamlined and efficient delivery of transportation services to the residents of Massachusetts.”

7. State drug lab scandals — Patrick’s administration was rocked by separate scandals involving Annie Dookhan and Sonja Farak, two former state chemists whose mishandling of drug samples led to some 61,000 drug charges in Massachusetts being dismissed.

The two are free after serving prison time for their misconduct, and the Globe reported last month that the state is currently paying out millions of dollars to wrongfully convicted drug defendants. The women began working for the state well before Patrick took office, but the scandals came to light during his tenure.


8. Education reform — In January 2010, Patrick signed a bill to greatly increase the number of charter schools, grant superintendents the power to overhaul failing districts, and make the state eligible for up to $250 million in federal stimulus money that was available at the time.

He trumpeted the bill as a once-in-a-generation achievement designed to narrow the performance gaps that have persistently plagued many pupils from poorer households, despite the state’s stellar showing on standardized tests.

“We are standing up for children,” Patrick said. “We are showing those hungry minds in our classrooms that we believe in them.’’

9. Compounding pharmacy debacle — Patrick in 2012 conceded that state and federal regulators were duped when it came to oversight of the now-shuttered New England Compounding Center.

The center was a Framingham outfit whose tainted drugs caused a deadly meningitis outbreak that sickened hundreds of patients nationwide and ultimately killed more than 100.

“What they were supposed to be doing is filling specific prescriptions for specific patients as I think any of us would understand a pharmacy to do,’’ Patrick told reporters in 2012, referring to NECC. “What they were doing instead is making big batches and selling out of state as a manufacturer would, and that is certainly outside their state license.”


Patrick added, “It does seem like the agencies both at the state and the federal level may have been misled by some of the information we were given.”

10. Ethics reform — In 2009, Patrick signed a sweeping ethics reform bill he had championed that levied harsher penalties for campaign finance violations and banned nearly all gifts to public officials, among other provisions.

The measure came in the wake of high-profile corruption scandals that had ensnared Democratic lawmakers.

Patrick was joined at the signing ceremony by House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat who still leads the lower chamber. DeLeo said during the ceremony that his “hope is that with the passage of this law, we will restore the public’s confidence in government.”

11. Marathon bombings — Shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings of April 2013, authorities made the pivotal decision to shut down the city and several municipalities during the hunt for the attackers.

After the bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured and his older brother and co-conspirator died in a confrontation with police in Watertown, Patrick defended the decision to seal off large swaths of Greater Boston while the siblings remained at large.

“I think we did what we should have done and were supposed to do with the always-imperfect information that you have at the time,” Patrick told reporters.

12. The drapes and the Caddy — In February 2007, just a month after his first inauguration, Patrick announced that he would repay the state for thousands of dollars of public funds he had spent on upgrades to his office, which famously included $10,000 damask drapes.

The drapes were part of a $27,387 makeover that included a new desk, settee, and other furnishings.

At the time of his announcement, Patrick also said he would contribute $543 each month to the lease of a Cadillac DTS he was using at the time for state business, bringing the cost to the public in line with the more modest Ford Crown Victoria used by his predecessor, Republican Mitt Romney.

Material from the Associated Press and prior Globe stories was used in this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.