Climate change

By now, it is old news that MassINC president and CEO Ian Bowles has left to become Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs in the administration of Gov. Deval Patrick. But it is by no means too late to give the publisher of this magazine a proper send-off.

Ian Bowles’s arrival on the MassINC scene in August 2003 was received with some trepidation. First of all, Ian at the helm was a product of the dreaded Founder Transition, the most momentous, and perilous, transfer of control in the life of any young organization, for-profit or non. Could MassINC survive a shift to second-generation leadership? Second, and of particular concern in these quarters, was the fact that MassINC’s head was also publisher of CommonWealth. Would he understand—even more, could he tolerate—the editorial independence that CommonWealth had enjoyed throughout its young life, and which had been the source of its hard-won credibility in the world of politics and civic life in Massachusetts?

It was not long before he put both sorts of fear to rest. In nearly three and a half years at the top of the MassINC organizational chart and the CW masthead (this issue for the last time), Ian distinguished himself as an institutional leader and as a supportive, enthusiastic publisher.

The organizational accomplishments are easy to enumerate: On Ian’s watch, MassINC released eight major research reports that received press and public attention from the Berkshires to Cape Cod; doubled its base of organizational sponsors and tripled the number of individual donors; and observed its 10th anniversary with substance and style, through ambitious election-year activities (including co-sponsoring two early debates among gubernatorial candidates) and a Faneuil Hall forum of former governors discussing the state of the American Dream in Massachusetts. There were noteworthy achievements in CommonWealth as well, including two extra issues—on health care in 2004 and on growth and development in 2006—and an upgrade to full-color printing, with complete redesign of the magazine, last spring.

Harder to quantify is the spirit of fun Ian brought to the business side of CommonWealth. To be publisher of our magazine of politics, ideas, and civic life takes a certain temperament, a willingness to take risks—even more, a willingness to let others take risks for which you may pay the price. Ian captured it best, in his Publisher’s Note (itself an innovation of his) for the 10th anniversary issue of the magazine: “Being publisher, I’ve found, is like being the owner of a brand-new car, but riding in the back seat as it barrels down the highway. You don’t quite know where your drivers are taking you, but you have faith—and hope for the best.”

For Ian, running MassINC was simply public service of a different sort.

As the guy behind the wheel, I might have missed a few grimaces, but any time I looked back there, Ian seemed to be having a great time. And if he indulged in backseat driving at all, it was only to tell me to floor it.

In 1996, Ian was a candidate in the Democratic primary for the 10th Congressional District, and during his time at MassINC he was occasionally asked whether he planned to run for office again. He became pretty adept at deflecting the question—he was enough of a politician to never say never—but there was not the least indication that he was contemplating candidacy for anything.

At the same time, there was never any doubt that public service was in Ian’s blood. Indeed, for him, running MassINC was simply public service of a different sort. So it surprised no one here that, when an opportunity presented itself to serve in the new Patrick administration, with a portfolio so dear to his heart, he would take it. It would have been more of a shock if he had not.

Meet the Author

Though we wish him well in his new post, he will be sorely missed in his old one. In his absence, his former colleagues at MassINC and CommonWealth look forward to a third generation of leadership.