Will Healey go inside or outside for State Police and MBTA hires?
IF LEADERSHIP IS key to righting a listing state agency, nothing Gov. Maura Healey does in the coming weeks may be as important as her selection of new leaders to helm the problem-plagued State Police and the teetering MBTA, which can only be called a rapid transit system these days with tongue firmly in cheek.
But as she looks to fill the crucial posts, Healey will first have to answer a question faced in every major hiring decision: Draw from within the organization or bring in someone from outside?
It’s “a fundamental question about building any leadership team in both the public and the private sector,” said Steve Kadish, who served as Gov. Charlie Baker’s first chief of staff and co-authored a book with him that breaks down how the administration approached hiring and other crucial elements of governing.
When it comes to the State Police, Healey is the first governor to have the option of tapping an outsider. A 2020 police reform bill wiped away a provision in state law that had required the department leader to be drawn from within the State Police ranks. Critics say that requirement contributed to an insular culture in which widespread overtime abuse continued for years, while charges of race discrimination also roiled the department.
On Monday, Healey named a six-member search committee that will work to find the next leader of the department in conjunction with the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Ed Davis, a former Boston police commissioner, said it’s “a sea change” to have the option of hiring an outside candidate to lead the State Police.
“There are benefits and detriments to both sides,” Davis said of the insider vs. outsider choice in filling any big leadership position. “The institutional knowledge and ability to build a team within an organization are benefits to hiring from inside. But going outside can change the culture and can bring other experiences into an organization that might be very parochial because they’ve had internal leaders throughout their history.”
At the T, a new general manager will face the daunting challenge of running a system where ridership – and fare revenue – cratered three years ago and isn’t on track to reach pre-pandemic levels anytime soon, if ever. Meanwhile, decades of deferred maintenance have led to performance levels today that are worse than those following the 2015 snow storms that many thought represented a nadir for the system.
Like Davis, Kadish subscribes to the general belief in promoting inside candidates when things are going smoothly and bringing outside leaders in when major change is needed. But he said there is often more nuance to the choice, and the right inside candidates can also be change agents.
“While the CEO has a critical role, it takes a team to succeed,” Kadish said. When the Baker administration was faced early on with hiring a new general manager for the T, Kadish said, they essentially installed a “triumvirate.”
Former state highway administrator Frank DePaola was tapped as GM, Brian Shortsleeve, who had private sector management background, was hired as the agency’s first chief administrator, while T veteran Jeffrey Gonneville was named chief operating officer. Together they brought a mix of deep inside knowledge and the fresh eyes of an outsider. Gonneville is now serving as interim GM, where he is getting good marks for his commitment to transparency.
In Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu has managed to bring that insider-outsider mix to two top picks, but managed to do so in each case within a single candidate. She tapped Mary Skipper, who was superintendent of the Somerville schools, as Boston’s new superintendent. But Skipper came with years of earlier experience as a Boston teacher and school leader. Similarly, Michael Cox took the reins as police commissioner last August after a run as police chief in Ann Arbor, Michigan. But it marked a homecoming for Cox, who grew up here and spent decades on the Boston police force.
In both the school and police picks, Wu seemed mindful of the need for change within the city departments, while recognizing the benefits of bringing on a leader who isn’t starting out cold when it comes to understanding the organization they’re leading – and the political minefields it’s filled with.
“I think he fit the bill,” Davis, who served on the police commissioner search committee, said of Cox. “He was someone who could get moving quickly because of his history, but also has seen the outside.”
Speed restrictions linger: The MBTA lifted the universal speed restriction on the Mattapan Line Thursday morning but kept it in place on the Green Line. The restrictions are the remnants of a slowdown ordered across the subway system by interim General Manager Jeff Gonneville after paperwork documenting the status of repair work turfed up by an inspection program couldn’t be found. Gonneville initially said he needed until Monday to determine whether repairs had actually been completed, but it has taken longer. Read more.
Electricity price falls: National Grid said its summer basic service price will fall dramatically but remain higher than it was last summer. The news plays into a debate about the region’s embrace of renewables. Read more.
CommonWealth has a new reporter: We’re happy to report that Jennifer Smith has joined the staff. Read more.
Housing debate: Liz Murphy of Fitchburg and Aaron Vega of Holyoke push back against a call by Chelsea officials to mandate affordable housing as part of a housing development program. What Gateway Cities need, they say, is more market-rate housing. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
State Auditor Diana DiZoglio is now zeroing in on the use of nondisclosure agreements, vowing to produce a report documenting their use – and cost – across all offices of state government.
A report from the left-leaning Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center concludes Gov. Healey’s pitch to overhaul the short-term capital gains tax and estate tax would benefit wealthy households more than middle- and low-income ones. (MassLive)
Boston City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson is suggesting that the city move away from the current system of support for Main Streets programs aimed at boosting local business districts, saying that it disadvantages predominantly Black and brown areas. (Dorchester Reporter)
Douglas and Diana Berthiaume of Andover give $20 million to the business school at UMass Amherst. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Boston is poised to approve a new five-year contract for school bus service, despite persistent performance concerns with the sole company that bid on the job. (Boston Globe)
A piece of ceiling debris fell on the commuter rail platform at Forest Hills Station in Jamaica Plain two weeks after a ceiling panel fell and nearly hit a passenger at a Red Line station. (Boston Herald)
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu proposes that the city adopt a new energy efficient state building code and provide $50 million in federal aid for building energy retrofits. (WBUR)
Federal prosecutors are charging a Westwood man with forced labor as they laid out a horrific tale of years of abuse of workers at pizza shops he owned. (Boston Globe) Universal Hub first reported yesterday on the gruesome allegations.MEDIA
We’re not exactly tooting our own horn here, but simply pointing out that Globe columnist Scot Lehigh does that in a piece urging philanthropic support for the solid research and policy work of MassINC, the nonpartisan think tank we’re affiliated with, and the independent journalism practiced at CommonWealth.