Spilka followed Rosenberg playbook
Chandler indicates she is in no hurry to leave president’s post
Sen. Karen Spilka of Ashland appears to have followed the playbook of the former Senate president, Stan Rosenberg, in pulling together the votes she needed to become the chamber’s next president.
At a meeting with reporters outside the Senate president’s office on Thursday, Spilka offered little in the way of a personal vision for what she wants to accomplish as Senate president. Instead, she stressed over and over again that she would share power with her colleagues, an approach pioneered by Rosenberg.
“It’s really important that we all work together. There has been a vision of leadership empowering senators and I want to build on that even further. I think it’s important that we continue to build on the foundation, the groundwork that was laid,” she said. “I want to talk to my colleagues to hear their priorities, but we do know that we have issues of social justice, economic justice, income inequality. We have education, civil rights, transportation, global climate change, net neutrality. There are so many critical issues before us to tackle and I really look forward to working with my colleagues to tackle them in a progressive way.”
Asked how she convinced her colleagues to back her, Spilka said: “By listening. My background is I started out as a social worker. I was a mediator. I did conflict resolution for many years. That is who I am. I think that active listening really makes a difference and is critically important for any leader.”
“A Senate president is a president in the sense of presiding, not in the sense of being the chief executive officer,” he said. “It’s a critical leadership position. What the Senate wants to do is up to the Senate, not the Senate president. The most important thing to senators is to know their Senate president understands that, and Karen understands that.”
There was a bit of a dustup at the press conference on when Spilka would move into the president’s office. She claimed not to have talked to the current Senate president, Harriette Chandler, about the timing of the transition. (Chandler took the post when Rosenberg stepped aside during an investigation of his spouse’s influence on Senate affairs, and the original plan was for Chandler to remain there until January when the Senate is scheduled to vote for a president.)
Spilka indicated she might assume the presidency sometime before January, but then added: “We need to have a respectful, smooth transition. People need to be together on this.”
Chandler, who has clearly become comfortable wielding the power of the presidency, indicated she had no intention of stepping aside before January. “I think this would not be the best time to transfer any power,” she said. “I think the point is she has the votes, we know that there’s a great deal of certainty here now, not the uncertainty we’ve seen before. So I think the plan is to continue to go on as we are. I plan to continue to serve until the end of this term.”
Asked if she was OK with that, Spilka said: “Again, we will discuss a respectful, smooth transition. This is something that all of our members need to be a part of.” Pressed on the timing of a transition, Spilka said: “Right now the Senate President is Sen. Harriette Chandler and I am the Senate President-elect.”
Chandler then hedged a bit on whether she would leave at the end of formal legislative sessions in July or next January. “That’s something we have to talk about,” she said, before saying the senators needed to go to start a legislative session.Spilka insisted there was no uncertainty about her status, and she was not creating a lame-duck situation for Chandler. “I don’t think that there’s drama,” she said. “This creates more certainty. The members wanted to end this, turn the page, and usher in a new era and let us focus on the people’s work now, work on the budget, work on the priorities of the members, have an incredibly productive end of session and move forward.”
According to previous stories about her, Spilka grew up in Yonkers, New York. She said her father was a builder who struggled with mental illness and her mother was a social worker. She has degrees from Cornell University and Northeastern University School of Law. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2001 and moved over to her Senate seat in 2005.