Democrat Ash loads up on GOP staffers

Many hired by Baker administration are former Republican candidates

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER has won plaudits for bringing Democrats into the fold as he built a senior team around him, but the governor’s administration has also provided refuge for some loyal party activists and several failed Republican candidates looking to regroup after faltering at the ballot box.

The latest examples come in Baker’s economic development cabinet where Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash, a Democrat, has filled two regional business development posts with 2014 runners-up.

After firing five of six regional directors at the Massachusetts Office of Business Development in March held over from the last administration, two-time GOP Congressional candidate Jon Golnik and Republican Senate candidate Debra Boronski landed posts in the office that serves as a point of contact for businesses looking to locate or expand in the state and offers help accessing resources, expertise, and incentive programs to grow jobs.

Golnik, who ran twice as a Republican from Carlisle against Democratic US Rep. Niki Tsongas, has been named central region director in the Office of Business Development, supervising an area that includes many of the north-central suburbs that make up the Third Congressional district where he challenged Tsongas.

The former Wall Street foreign currency trader ran for Congress in both 2010 and 2012. After leaving finance and before trying his hand at politics, Golnik started a South End furniture company and later and online retail website that sold college sports merchandise.

The western regional business development post went to Boronski, the former executive with the Chicopee and Greater Springfield chambers of commerce, who finished second last fall to state Sen. Eric Lesser in a campaign for the 1st Hampden and Hampshire Senate seat.

Boronski founded the little-known Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce about five years ago, and has a graduate degree in management from Cambridge College. She was also appointed by former Gov. Deval Patrick to a private development task force.

The jobs come with a salary of $75,000 a year, according to the administration.

While it might be expected that Republicans would find job opportunities in a new Baker administration after eight years of Democratic control in the executive branch, the governor’s advisors insist politics do not play a role in hiring decisions.

“The MOBD regional directors have decades of experience in the private and public sectors that is invaluable to their work providing businesses with the support necessary to expand here in Massachusetts, creating jobs for residents across the commonwealth. The administration has made clear that political affiliations play no part in the hiring process as Governor Baker has assembled one of the most bipartisan teams in recent history to serve the people of Massachusetts,” Baker spokesman Tim Buckley said in a statement to the News Service.

Golnik and Boronski join others like Undersecretary of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations John Chapman, who challenged U.S. Rep. William Keating last fall, and Matthew Sisk, a GOP state committee member who landed his job as deputy commissioner for operations at the Department of Conservation and Recreation after serving as chairman of MassGOP’s controversial nominating convention last winter. Sisk is also a former economic development specialist in the Massachusetts district office of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Baker also put last year’s GOP nominee for state treasurer Mike Heffernan on the MBTA Retirement Board and Pension Reserves Investment Management boards, and hired the GOP’s nominee for secretary of state David D’Arcangleo to run the Office on Disability.

Richard Dalton, a former Back Bay Restaurant Group executive and president of Dalton Hospitality, was hired to be the Greater Boston MOBD regional director, while the southeast region job went to Maria Marasco, who most recently ran a job readiness and employment program in the Barnstable County sheriff’s office.

The one holdover from the Patrick administration – Peter Milano – now handles the metrowest area, and Maria DiStefano has been hired as northeast regional director. The office is overseen by Baker’s Assistant Secretary of Business Development Nam Pham.

Ash told the News Service in March he was looking to take the business development office in a new direction.

“We are structuring our regional directors in a different way, looking for a different skill set and believe that we are going to be able to continue to do the work that the Mass. Office of Business Development has done, but also advance it along small business development and along specific sectors of the Commonwealth,” Ash said.