The green governor?

Few on Deval Patrick's ‘fresh blood’ staff have been seasoned in the State-house hallways
March 7, 2007 2:53:11 PM


Governor Deval Patrick promised to bring new faces and fresh perspectives to his administration, and he certainly has done that. Not only has he appointed Beacon Hill outsiders to cabinet posts and other high offices, he’s hired State House virgins at all levels, from department chiefs of staff to policy analysts — even as liaisons to the legislature.

These hirings have included quite a few members of the Patrick campaign, as well as some significant Patrick fundraisers, leading some critics to speculate that — as has been the case with so many other administrations — patronage may be a fact of life under Patrick.

But other observers merely wonder whether Patrick needs more experienced insiders to help guide him. The lack of insiders, some say, explains the small but aggravating missteps that have dogged the governor’s first weeks in office — from the Cadillac controversy to perceived miscues in the budget-proposal rollout.

"I think people in the building are losing confidence by the minute in their ability to lead," one legislator's policy director says of the Patrick team.

That’s certainly not a unanimous view. But of the hundreds of legislative staffers, current and former, who flooded the new administration with résumés, only a few have been hired. And that appears to have been a deliberate decision. One highly recommended legislative aide was told directly that he would not be considered for a deputy-chief-of-staff position, because he was working with the legislature, sources say.

A deputy-chief-of-staff job did, however, go to 25-year-old Brendan Ryan — who served as a chief aid and deputy finance director on Patrick’s campaign. Several other members of the campaign-finance team have landed jobs in the administration: Janet Lin is chief of staff at the Department of Business and Development; Jane Corr is chief of staff at the Department of Energy and Environment; and Lonsdale Koester is a policy analyst at the Executive Office of Administration and Finance. Other campaign staffers hired by the administration include Mark Lilienthal, constituent-service director; and Christine Alaimo, public-liaison assistant director.

The list of Patrick hires also includes some who, though they have not worked in the State House, bring something to the table. Policy director Richard Chacon is a veteran journalist who worked for Mayor David Dinkins in New York City. Vicki Zwerdling, assistant to Patrick’s chief of staff, was an aide to Congressman Jim McGovern. Scheduling director Christy Mach was deputy finance director for the Democratic Governors Association. Kahlil Byrd (appointments director), Ron Bell (public-liaison director), and Elizabeth Wall (director of the Office of Travel and Tourism) bring a wealth of professional, community, and policy experience with them.

Then there are those who, though not on the campaign payroll, helped raise money for the effort. Patrick stirred controversy by hiring Amy Gorin as a full-time aide to his wife; Gorin raised more than $70,000 for the Patrick campaign, according to a page on the campaign's Web site that tracked fundraising efforts. Juliette Kayyem of the Kennedy School of Government raised $11,000, also according to that site, and was named undersecretary of homeland security.

It's unsurprising that Patrick would want to hire people he’s comfortable with, or who served him well in the past. And Patrick did pledge to appoint people from outside the usual Beacon Hill circle.

To be sure, Patrick has put in some experienced people in key positions. Mike Morris, heading the governmental-affairs team, comes from the state treasurer's office. Leslie Kirwan, secretary of administration and finance, has spent years at Massport. Former representative James Leary is chief of staff to Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray. Deputy Chief of Staff David Simas previously worked for a House committee.

"The Governor during his campaign, and now in his administration, has always looked for people who bring the best abilities and experience to the table," says administration spokesperson Kyle Sullivan — who came from House Speaker Sal DiMasi's staff. Sullivan argues that the administration has put together a good mix of newcomers and experienced insiders.

Experience counts
To some, the lack of State House experience among people at top levels — including Patrick himself, his chief of staff, Joan Wallace-Benjamin, and his communications director, Nancy Fernandez Mills — suggests that they, more than most, need the assistance of people who have negotiated the hallways.

The perception that the administration needs more insiders is common, and "there's some truth to it," says one Beacon Hill lobbyist who supports the Patrick administration. "I've been surprised they haven't grabbed more chiefs of staff from various senators, and research directors on the House side."

In fact, many State House insiders who spoke with the Phoenix — most on background, saying they did not want to be on record critiquing the new administration — say the lack of relevant experience is a potential and growing problem.

“A big part of succeeding as governor is dealing with these 200 people over here in the legislature, so you need to find somebody who has particular experience with committees, with hearings, and with the bureaucracy,” says State Representative Mike Moran, a Democrat from Brighton. “Because they can stop everything he wants to do — that’s the reality.”

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i'm reminded of the scene in the 'godfather' when sonny scolds hagen..."if i had a sicilian consigleri i wouldn't be in this mess! pop had jenko...look what i got." well, yea, the duke had sasso...and a lot of other talent. but most of 'em came around in round two. including mitropoulis, corrigan, keefe, etc. what patrick does have is idealisim and a swift learning curve. i'll wager a significant portion of his current posse will be gone come summer, replaced by national talent not interested in hitching-up with a national campaign or hiding out at the kennedy school.

POSTED BY jeffery mcnary AT 03/08/07 12:21 PM

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