A Conversation between Helene Solomon and Governor Deval Patrick

(Photo by Allan E. Dines)

Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick joined Solomon McCown CEO Helene Solomon for a wide-ranging conversation as he prepares to leave office after an eight-year, two-term tenure as chief executive of the Commonwealth. Industry leaders from real estate, healthcare, corporate, finance and the non-profit sectors were in the audience as Patrick reflected on his governorship, people over policy, the influence of dark money, race, and transitioning the governorship to Governor-Elect Charlie Baker with his trademark empathy and humor.

He reflected on his accomplishments, many of which he achieved by flying in the face of conventional political wisdom. He recounted his negotiations with the state Legislature during the economic collapse, during which he advocated for three substantive legislative items that met resistance. In response to the legislature pushing a sales tax increase—and against the advice of his  advisors—Patrick said he’d work with the legislature on the sales tax if it would work with him around the transportation and other investments he sought. “You’re done,” Patrick recounted his aides telling him about the increase. But by explaining the tough choice to voters, in his style, suggesting that second graders shouldn’t have to wait for the economy to improve to get a good education, Patrick was elected to his second term in 2010.

In his tenure, there have been 13 new international direct flights added to Logan Airport. Approximately 90,000 jobs are now in the clean tech sector. And Patrick feels big issues like the Health Connector, issues in the Department of Children and Families, and others have been tackled and improved during his watch.

Solomon asked Patrick what was the most surprising part of the governorship. “The intimacy of it,” Patrick replied. When citizens meet the Governor, he said, they struggle to find the right question to ask or statement to make while they have his attention. Often times, these relate to the most personal parts of their lives. A person who couldn’t get a lump checked out until they found health insurance on the Connector. An executive chef who got his start in the hospitality industry thanks to CORI reform signed by Patrick

Patrick reflected on his decision to seek only two terms—an agreement he struck with his wife, Diane, prior to seeking office. “I miss the private sector,” Patrick said to laughs from the crowd, “especially on payday.”

To close the conversation, Governor Patrick remarked that we, as a culture, have learned to “shout anger and whisper justice.” “It has to be the other way around,” Patrick said to nods of agreement from those in the room. For the past eight years, Massachusetts has been fortunate to have a Governor so committed to shouting justice from the corner office.

Soon, Governor Patrick will leave a note on the desk for Governor-Elect Baker as he takes over the role. We were honored to have Governor Patrick take the time out of his schedule to reflect with us this morning. We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors and hope that his voice remains part of the public dialogue on the issues he is so passionate about.

We had a great conversation on Twitter as well with the hashtag #SMCgov. We urge you to read what the audience took from this conversation. Here are some highlights:

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