No clear answers on Sudders’s shift in tone
LAST WEEK, Marylou Sudders sounded like she wanted to stay on as the state’s secretary of health and human services. This week, she put in her retirement papers.
What happened between last week and this week is unclear, but rumors are swirling.
Sudders has served eight years as the secretary of the biggest executive branch office in state government. She also served during COVID, an unprecedented, high-profile period that put her and her decisions in the spotlight on a daily basis.
She recorded the CommonWealth Codcast early last week with John McDonough of the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University and Paul Hattis of the Lown Institute. They saw it as an “exit interview” of sorts, while Sudders talked with an urgency about unfinished business.
“We should use this moment and galvanize it and see it,” she said. “To me that is the policy opportunity to come back to the table and address health care costs in the Commonwealth, and I have some strong opinions about it, as you can tell.”
Her tone was such that McDonough asked her whether she intended to stay on after Gov. Charlie Baker’s term ends on January 3 and serve temporarily or permanently in the new administration of Maura Healey.
It was not a crazy question, as news outlets have reported that some members of Baker’s cabinet could be holdovers in Healey’s. It also made some sense because of the glacial pace of Healey’s appointments. As of Friday morning, she had named just three members of her cabinet.
“I’m here until I’m not,” Sudders said on the Codcast, acknowledging there have been meetings and discussions with Healey and Lt. Gov.-elect Kim Driscoll. “What I can assure you is this transition will be very smooth.”
On Monday, not long after the Codcast was released and summarized on CommonWealth’s website, news leaked that Sudders had informed her staff that she was retiring.
Spokespeople for Sudders and Healey did not respond to requests for comment.
Speculation about what happened varied quite dramatically. One source said Sudders believed she was on the verge of being offered the job by Healey, only to learn she wasn’t. Another said Sudders was wooed for the job, but decided to opt out when she learned that she would have to go through a competitive process. A third source said Sudders was the one campaigning for the job.
A fourth source said Sudders never intended to stay on, noting her “I’m here until I’m not” comment was something she said often to deflect questions as the Baker administration was winding down. Why she wasn’t more forthright with McDonough and Hattis is unclear.
Whatever the reason, the search for a new secretary of health and human services continues. One source said a candidate was encouraged by Healey to apply for the job last week.
NEW STORIES FROM COMMONWEALTH MAGAZINE
Interim GM at the T: Jeffrey Gonneville, the deputy general manager of the MBTA, will step into the top spot on an interim basis when Steve Poftak steps down on January 3. Gonneville will oversee the T until Gov.-elect Maura Healey picks a new GM, which she said she expects will take weeks, not months. Read more.
In-person sports betting: The Massachusetts Gaming Commission plans a soft-launch of in-person sports betting at the state’s three casinos on January 30 and 31, with a rollout to the public in February. Read more.
STORIES FROM ELSEWHERE AROUND THE WEB
South Boston elected officials are objecting to plans by the state convention center authority to make land available for private development across from the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center that they say was taken by eminent domain to expand the convention industry. (Boston Globe)
Boston’s largest police union has filed for arbitration after reaching an impasse with the Wu administration on terms of a new contract. (Boston Globe)
The city of Worcester takes down an “insensitive” social media post that uses the “distracted boyfriend” meme to attract job-seekers. (Telegram & Gazette)
A contractor who built Polar Park will pay $1.9 million in fines for falsifying reports it made to the city of Worcester about its efforts to hire women and minority-owned businesses as subcontractors for the ballpark. (GBH)
The latest health worry: A rare but dangerous strain of streptococcus bacteria targeting children. (Boston Globe)
UMass Memorial Health posts a $38.2 million operating loss for 2022. (Telegram & Gazette)
The House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection issued its final report, a sweeping 800-page narrative that, among other things, recommends Congress ban former president Donald Trump from ever holding public office again because of his role in the events of that day. (Washington Post)
Republican state Rep. Lenny Mirra is heading to court to challenge recount results that have him losing his North Shore seat by 1 vote to Democratic challenger Kristin Kassner. (Boston Herald)
There are programs and initiatives that could make it easier for businesses to hire people with disabilities, which could help the economy given the current labor shortage. (Boston University Statehouse Program)
Downtown Northampton is full of empty storefronts after a spate of pandemic-era business closures. (MassLive)
Police are investigating racist graffiti spray painted on a building facing Wayland High School that targeted the school district’s Black superintendent. (Boston Herald)
The SJC sides with an online auto parts retailer in a battle with the Baker administration over whether state government can retroactively collect sales taxes for products sold online under a 2017 regulation. (Gloucester Daily Times)
A retired state police detective captain is indicted on child pornography charges. (MassLive)