August 23, 2007 — Vol. 43, No. 2
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Patrick puts focus on diversity in state government

Ken Maguire

After winning office last year, Gov. Deval Patrick said his cabinet and administration would be “a real reflection of the diversity of Massachusetts in every way, racially and ethnically and geographically and in terms of background and perspective.”

After a number of early appointments, Patrick — the state’s first black governor — appears to be keeping his promise.

The appointment last week of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Police Chief Joseph Carter as the new head of the Massachusetts National Guard is the latest example. Carter will become the first black person appointed to the top post in the Massachusetts Guard’s 370-year history.

Among minorities who are influential in Patrick’s decision-making are policy advisers Richard Chacon, David Morales and Charlotte Golar Richie. There’s JudyAnn Bigby, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as senior education adviser Dana Mohler-Faria and Anthony “Angelo” McClain, the Department of Social Services commissioner.

“You wouldn’t have been able to get that kind of mix of people over the past 16 years,” said state Rep. Byron Rushing, a Boston Democrat who is black, referring to the Republican governors who preceded Patrick.

The benefit is that “people bring issues to the table that otherwise wouldn’t be brought,” Rushing said, such as racial or socioeconomic disparities in the health care system.

One of Patrick’s first steps in office was signing an executive order mandating that all state agencies develop an affirmative action and diversity plan. It also required that each cabinet secretary appoint a diversity director, and that each state agency appoint a civil rights officer to ensure compliance to nondiscrimination laws. It also mandates diversity training.

“The governor understands how important it is for state government and others to create opportunities for minorities to serve and he will continue to seek new ways to encourage that service,” Patrick spokeswoman Cyndi Roy said.

In May, Patrick hired Lily Mendez-Morgan to the newly created position of senior appointments director, to oversee hirings in the executive branch and on state boards and commissions. Patrick noted her work with a foundation that supports civic participation by minorities.

At the news conference announcing Mendez-Morgan’s appointment, Patrick said hiring more minorities is “a priority of mine.”

“It was in the campaign, it is in the administration,” he said. “There is talent in every community in the Commonwealth. I want to encourage and make the most of that talent in state government.”

Diversity also has been geographic.

Patrick hired Westfield Mayor Richard Sullivan as commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation. And state Rep. Daniel Bosley of North Adams was given the job of economic development adviser to the governor, though he opted in January to stay in the state Legislature.

But state Rep. Benjamin Swan, a Springfield Democrat who has made some hiring recommendations to the administration, said he wasn’t persuaded that Patrick has lived up to his pledge.

“He’s attempting to address the issue but the jury is still out,” Swan said. “I want to see what the filling of those [positions] look like, in terms of geography, in terms of ethnicity, in terms of expertise. I want to see what it looks like when it’s done.”

Factors like race or place of residence shouldn’t be defining factors, he said, but should get strong consideration.

“It’s not likely that somebody from Boston is going to understand the agricultural needs of Franklin or Hampden or Berkshire counties,” Swan said.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican now running for president, told a crowd in Londonderry, N.H., last week that he would surround himself in Washington with advisers who reflect the nation’s diversity. He said he envisioned calling together a group similar to the “kitchen cabinet” of black citizens he said he met with regularly as governor of Massachusetts.

“We had a diverse cabinet and a diverse administration, and we achieved it without using quotas,” Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said, adding that Romney was nationally recognized for having high numbers of women in senior positions.

“If Deval Patrick can improve on that record, we think that’s great,” Fehrnstrom said.

(Associated Press)

Former MBTA Police Chief Joseph Carter was recently appointed the new head of the Mass. National Guard by Gov. Deval Patrick. (Banner file photo)

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