AMID A DAY full of pomp, circumstance, and a nod to history in the making, Maura Healey on Thursday was sworn in as the 73rd governor of Massachusetts and the first woman elected to that role.
Healey, a Democrat, also made history as one of the first two openly lesbian governors in the United States, alongside Tina Kotek of Oregon who will take office next week.
Kim Driscoll was sworn in as lieutenant governor, a day after she resigned her job as Salem mayor. She took the oath on a historic Bible from the House of the Seven Gables in Salem, which was made famous by author Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Although the two-hour ceremony was held in the House chamber, which is presided over by Speaker Ron Mariano, it was Senate President Karen Spilka who emceed the event and administered the oaths of office to Healey and Driscoll, in a powerful display of women holding three of the four most influential roles on Beacon Hill.
Healey wore a white dress, the color choice a symbolic nod to the women’s suffrage movement.
Even before Healey and Driscoll entered the room, the packed audience of representatives, senators, and dignitaries rose for a standing ovation when Spilka said that, as the third female Senate president, she would be honored to administer the oath of office to the first woman elected governor. Republican Jane Swift, the first female governor, held the role on an acting basis after Gov. Paul Cellucci resigned.
Healey opened her address by speaking of the “firsts” that occurred in Massachusetts – including, the former Harvard point guard said, the first ever basketball game. “We were the first to guarantee that health care is universal, and 20 years ago now, that love is, too,” Healey said, sparking one of many sustained standing ovations she received during the ceremony. “It is in that spirit of common humanity that I stand before you today, representing another historic first.”
After a campaign in which she was criticized for a lack of specific policy prescriptions, Healey used her lengthy inaugural remarks to lay out the beginning of her agenda to address housing, higher education, childcare, transportation, and climate.
Healey, 51, served as Massachusetts attorney general since 2015. Before that, she worked for Attorney General Martha Coakley, leading her office’s civil rights division. Healey was a professional basketball player in Europe after graduating from Harvard.
Driscoll, 56, has served as Salem’s mayor since 2006. She is a lawyer who spent most of her career in municipal government.
The ceremony was attended by a who’s who of prominent Massachusetts politicians, including President Biden’s special envoy for climate and former Massachusetts senator John Kerry. Three former governors – Democrats Deval Patrick and Michael Dukakis, and Republican Bill Weld – sat in seats of honor on the House rostrum. Also attending were Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, former Senate president Therese Murray, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd, US Sen. Ed Markey, former House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and the incoming and outgoing constitutional officers.
The last three years of the COVID-19 pandemic seemed in the past amid the packed chamber, with only a few attendees wearing masks.
Healey has made a point of featuring a diverse slate of participants in her inaugural events. At her inauguration, the national anthem was sung by Lydia Harrell, a Black jazz singer from Boston. “America the Beautiful” was sung by Precious Perez, a blind, Latina singer trained in pop/R&B and Latin music, who sung several words of the song in Spanish. The invocation was delivered by Bishop John Borders of Morningstar Baptist Church in Boston, a Christian radio personality who was the first Black chaplain in the Suffolk County jail before taking his urban pulpit.
The Pledge of Allegiance was led by the families of five military service members killed in action.
A basketball-themed inaugural ball at TD Garden Thursday evening will be headlined by Brandi Carlile, a folk-rock singer-songwriter who has been an advocate for LGBTQ rights.
Healey was sworn in at 12:30 p.m., though she officially took office at noon.
Although Healey grew up in New Hampshire, her inaugural address stressed her Massachusetts roots. She spoke of her great-great-grandfather in Newburyport, who fought for the Union in the Civil War at age 16. Healey was sworn in on a family Bible that belonged to her great-great-grandmother. She said her grandparents, a nurse and factory worker, met “on the fishing docks in a Gloucester summer.”
Her address spoke to the challenges facing Massachusetts – the hospital staffing crisis, the many residents moving out of state, the lack of skilled workers, and the high cost of living. “We have untold wealth in Massachusetts. But record public revenue does little good when families can’t pay the rent, or buy a house, or heat their homes, or hire child care,” Healey said. “Our people can’t realize their dreams until we end the nightmare of high costs.”
Healey said within her first 100 days in office, she will file legislation to create a secretary of housing. She announced plans to inventory unused state-owned land that can be turned into housing within a year. She pledged to assist first-time homebuyers and reduce costs for renters. Major housing reforms have often been stymied on Beacon Hill by opposition from local communities, and Healey asked citizens to support new housing. “That means building more housing next to transit hubs, taking another look at zoning, and preserving the housing we already have,” she said.
Healey pledged to move forward on tax reform, including expanding the child tax credit, but did not provide additional details of her tax policy proposals, which will need to be negotiated with the House and Senate.
She pledged to support legislation to make child care more affordable, in line with a framework proposed by the “Common Start Coalition.” That proposal would vastly increase public spending on child care, through direct subsidies to providers and to low and middle-income families.
Healey said her first budget will include a new initiative, dubbed MassReconnect, that will provide community college for free to anyone over 25 who lacks a college degree. Healey’s budget must be approved by the Legislature, and her focus on free college jibes with Spilka’s announcement Wednesday that the Senate will seek to advance free community college.
On transportation, Healey pledged to appoint a safety chief within 60 days to inspect the MBTA, and to appoint a general manager for the T “with deep experience and a laser focus on making our transit safe and reliable.” She said her budget proposal will include funding to hire 1,000 new workers at the MBTA within the administration’s first year.
On climate, Healey pledged to double offshore wind and solar energy targets, quadruple energy storage deployment, electrify the public fleet, and put a million electric vehicles on the road by 2030. She said her first executive order, which she will issue Friday, will create the country’s first cabinet-level climate chief. She pledged to dedicate at least 1 percent of the state budget to environmental and energy agencies, triple the Clean Energy Center’s budget, and create a “green bank” to spur investment in climate-related projects.
“Let’s commit to making climate innovation our next big investment, our next first, our next frontier,” Healey said.
Driscoll, in her own shorter remarks, praised former Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito’s bipartisan approach to governing, and pledged to be a leader “from the get stuff done branch of government.”
Unlike Healey’s speech, Driscoll’s speech stuck to broad commitments to address areas like transportation, education, the economy, and clean energy. She concluded, to applause: “Let’s go get to work!”