Linda Dorcena Forry — the highest-ranking elected black official in Massachusetts — was feted by her colleagues Wednesday afternoon as she bid goodbye to the state Senate to take a job with Suffolk Construction.
“Today is a day that we celebrate love,” she said in her final Senate speech, remarking on the Valentine’s Day holiday to an audience that included former governor Deval Patrick, Mayor Martin J. Walsh, and Governor Charlie Baker. “And I’ve loved this job. I’ve loved this place. I’ve loved my constituents, and you, my colleagues. And my heart is full today.”
Dorcena Forry’s surprise resignation — announced last month — marks the departure of a powerful voice from state politics and leaves the state Senate without a single black member, underscoring the lack of diversity in state government.
Dorcena Forry will join Suffolk Construction as the company’s Northeast regional vice president for diversity, inclusion, and community relations.
Prior to her departure announcement, the charismatic Democrat was one of four senators who pursued the chamber’s presidency after Stanley C. Rosenberg was forced to step aside following a Globe report that several men, some of whom had business before the Legislature, alleged sexual assault by his husband, Bryon Hefner.
In Dorcena Forry’s speech, she highlighted her role as the state’s most prominent Haitian-American politician, noting how she often helped fellow Haitians from outside her district “but who saw me as their best connection to state government. . . . I did my best to help them. To my Haitian brothers and sisters, I’ll always be your advocate,” she said, before breaking into brief remarks in Haitian Creole.
“We love you,” someone from the gallery called out.
Her message was broadly bipartisan, but she alluded to the national debate over immigration and her views of the current administration.
“The immigrant story is the American story. I stand before you as a first-generation American, and only in this country can you start from humble beginnings and become a state senator,” she said, prompting applause.
Earlier, she recalled her hard work to elect “the greatest president in my lifetime,” former president Barack Obama, and said she had faith that it won’t be too long before she “will have the chance to feel that way again someday.”
She closed by seeming to keep the door open to a return to politics: “This is not a forever good-bye; this is not a sad farewell,” she said.