BOSTON (State House News Service) – Voters haven’t yet picked Gov. Charlie Baker’s successor, but his staff are already preparing for next January’s transfer of power to a new administration.
Chief of staff Tim Buckley and senior advisor Elizabeth Mahoney are leading Baker’s transition team along with Cabinet secretaries, press secretary Terry MacCormack told the News Service.
“The Baker-Polito administration is committed to a smooth and productive transition with the incoming administration, and every agency across the administration has been preparing for the transition for a few months now,” MacCormack said.
Buckley and Mahoney will know what the next governor’s team is looking for — both aides were part of Baker’s transition into office in 2015, according to MacCormack. They will likely sit opposite the governor-elect’s transition director, whom the winner usually appoints shortly after the race is decided.
The most visible sign of change was last Thursday’s housecleaning operation on the first floor of the State House. Baker aides were seen stacking at least 33 file boxes in a corridor of the building’s Bulfinch section. The files appeared to be a trip through time, with labels indicating they dated to the Weld, Cellucci, Swift, and Patrick years, with topics including budgets, payrolls, and a “State House Master Plan.”
A Baker spokesman did not answer a request for information about those files, but a spokeswoman for Secretary William Galvin, who oversees the State Archives, said she thought they were headed to Columbia Point.
” … I believe those are records from previous administrations that are currently in the possession of the governor’s office and are being formally signed over to Archives for safe keeping,” Galvin press secretary Deb O’Malley said.
“With the transition coming up, our office has already been in communication with the governor’s office about the transfer of records to Archives. We expect the governor’s office will transfer all public records required to be retained under the state retention schedule, and the communications thus far have been primarily focused on logistics and organization of the records,” O’Malley said.
State government records are retained subject to a schedule set by the Records Conservation Board, which is also the body that approves destruction of certain records if permission is required. The board’s membership includes the state archivist, supervisor of records, representatives of the attorney general and comptroller, the state librarian, and designees from the Executive Office of Administration and Finance and the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security.
The board generally meets monthly, and at its next meeting on Nov. 2 is set to consider 32 requests from various agencies to destroy certain records, including one request from the governor’s office.
The retention schedule is updated on an ongoing basis, and guidelines adapt to new forms of recordkeeping, like the shift in recent decades to digital files.
MacCormack told the News Service that the administration would be following all retention policies as it prepares for the transition.
Decades ago, some governors left the place in shambles or literal ashes.
When Gov. Michael Dukakis was on his way out the door in 1979, after Edward King bested him in the prior year’s Democratic primary, Dukakis’ press aides caused a stir by leaving piles of trash in the middle of the floor.
“It was not an orderly transition,” Ronald Brinn, communications director to incoming Gov. King, was quoted as saying in News Service coverage.
The News Service reported at the time that piles of files were heaped on the floor on Inauguration Day as if someone had “rifled” the place, and in the corner sat a nearly-empty half gallon of wine. The Bureau of State Office Buildings said there was a shortage of trash bins.
When the roles reversed four years later and King’s team was making way for Dukakis’ return, records weren’t just left in disarray — they went up in smoke.
The fireplace in the governor’s office contained one and a half feet of paper ash when Dukakis arrived, according to a Herald story from 1983, and another office was littered with hundreds of shredded files.
There’s a lot less paper than 40 years ago, supplanted by hard drives and login credentials.
Gov. Mitt Romney’s aides were reportedly allowed to buy the hard drives from their state computers and take their work files with them when they departed in 2007, a story that emerged in the national news during Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.
O’Malley said she is “sure there have been a number of changes to various aspects of the [records] retention schedule” since that time.
Gov. Deval Patrick presided over the first social media-era administration and began the custom of a peaceful transfer of passwords between officeholders for websites like Twitter.
When Baker departs, he will hand his successor the digital keys to a number of “MassGovernor” accounts, including one on YouTube which Baker utilized over the past two years to livestream press conferences.
Those are in addition to the physical skeleton key that gets passed between governors along with other historical and symbolic mementoes.