GOV. CHARLIE BAKER, who often called the “blocking and tackling” of state government the centerpiece of his approach in office, on Tuesday began a two-day process of saying a public goodbye with a brief address that leaned into the prosaic details of his eight-year tenure while dispensing with the sort of sweeping oratory that was never his style.
From behind the desk of his formal State House office, Baker delivered a six-minute, livestreamed address thanking Massachusetts residents. The speech was an unemotional, straightforward goodbye touting his administration’s accomplishments.
Baker said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito had visited all 351 cities and towns, and Baker himself “got to more than 250.”
“Both of us were amazed by the creativity, decency, and shared sense of purpose that we saw everywhere we went,” Baker said.
Baker has long touted a strategy of working across party lines without focusing on hot button political issues, a message he continued in his final address. “Despite a myriad of political fights and distractions that were raging all around us, people here chose to focus on the work, and it paid off,” Baker said.
Baker did not address the notable failures of his administration – ongoing safety problems with the MBTA, mismanagement at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, or tragedies involving COVID-19 deaths at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home or deaths of children supervised by the Department of Children and Families. Rather, he focused on his accomplishments: working with the Legislature to pass housing reform, turning a budget deficit into a surplus, extending broadband internet access to Western Massachusetts, and establishing a summer nights program to keep urban youth occupied.
“We did it all without partisan bickering,” Baker said.
The governor devoted a substantial portion of his message to addressing the pandemic, thanking local organizations, the National Guard, and the public for abiding by the rules and standing up food pantries, testing sites, and vaccine clinics – even while acknowledging public disagreement about his decisions. Baker also said he will miss the ribbon cuttings, fundraisers, and other gatherings on behalf of worthy causes. “It was like fuel for me. Watching people do good things to benefit others gave me joy,” Baker said.
Baker will continue his farewell Wednesday. That afternoon, Baker and Polito will hold a traditional symbol exchange with Gov.-elect Maura Healey and Lt-Gov.-elect Kim Driscoll in the governor’s State House office. At 5 p.m. on the end of his final full day in office, Baker will take his “lone walk,” the traditional exit of departing governors out the front doors of the State House, which are only opened for ceremonial occasions.
Notwithstanding the name attached to the ceremonial leave-taking, Baker will be joined by his wife, Lauren Baker, Polito, and Polito’s husband, Steve Rodolakis.
Baker will remain governor until noon on Thursday, when Healey will be sworn in.
Baker has already accepted his next job, as president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Healey has been holding a series of regional inaugural events around the state this week. Most involved service projects – creating packs of toiletries at Lowell High School that will be distributed to students, assembling school supply kits at a Boys & Girls Club in Taunton, distributing food at the Worcester Food Bank, and participating in a holiday gift drive in Springfield.
The formal swearing-in ceremony for Healey, Driscoll, and the Governor’s Council will be held Thursday in the House chamber, beginning at 11:30 a.m. The pair will hold an inaugural celebration at TD Garden Thursday evening, headlined by Brandi Carlile, a folk-rock singer-songwriter who has been an advocate for LGBTQ rights.
Healey, in addition to being Massachusetts’ first female elected governor, will be one of the first two openly lesbian governors in the country.