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Briefings: Healey Staffs up Her Office’s Outpost in the 413…

LaMar Cook Kristen Elechko Healey

Cook and Elechko to to hold down the Western front for Healey. (via Governor’s office)

Filling out the administration of Governor Maura Healey remains a work in progress, but this week her office announced some staffing decisions of salience to the 413. On Thursday, Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll announced that Kristen Elechko, recently of Senator Ed Markey’s office, would lead their office in Western Mass. The same statement named LaMar Cook, a Springfield resident active in business and community groups, the office’s deputy director.

Based in the ex-Post Office-turned-State Office Building in Downtown Springfield, the Western Mass office has become a barometer to judge governor’s investment of attention. It is both a relay station to Boston and tangible representation of a governor’s presence. Pols, businesspeople, activists and residents eye who runs the office and what the administration does with it.

“I am honored that Governor Healey and Lieutenant Governor Driscoll have placed their trust in me to lead their Western Mass Office alongside LaMar Cook,” Elechko said in a statement Healey’s office released. “Together, we are excited to dive into the issues facing residents and help Governor Healey and Lieutenant Governor Driscoll deliver results for our communities.”

For her part, Healey praised Elechko and Cook’s “deep ties”—and the local knowledge that entails—to the region.

“Lieutenant Governor Driscoll and I are committed to leading an administration for all of Massachusetts, and that means making sure that the people of Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden and Berkshire counties have a direct line to my office,” Healey said in her office’s statement.

Driscoll underscored their “drive, experience and vision to deliver results for their region.”

Maura Healey

Healey and Driscoll investing campaign time in Western Mass last September. (WMP&I)

Before serving as the Western and Central Mass representative for Markey’s office, she had run and/or worked on a slew of state and local campaigns, including in Greenfield and Holyoke. She was also the Western Mass director for Markey’s 2020 reelection battle against then-Rep Joe Kennedy, III. A graduate of Mt. Holyoke, she also has experience in business and nonprofits.

Cook, a member of Springfield’s Community Preservation Committee, has been a prominent figure in city politics for some time. He has run for City Council before, but his professional background is in hospitality. Before joining Healey’s administration, he had been Director of Hotel UMass in Amherst. Cook also served on the board of the Massachusetts Lodging Association. He is a graduate of Western New England University.

With these appointments, the governor has gone in a somewhat unusual direction. While whoever leads the office is a political appointee, which is to say not necessarily coming of any particular background, not all choices have received praise.

For example, Charlie Baker received some blowback in Republican circles early in his tenure for plucking somebody from far east of the 413 to run the office. Later leaders former Senator Michael Knapik and MGM and Springfield City Hall alum Jose Delgado were much better received. However, neither were exactly doing a job proximate to, if not synonymous with, what a Western Mass director does.

The portfolio of a senator differs greatly from a governor. However, any statewide Massachusetts elected, should place a premium on melding constituent service with collecting local political intelligence.

Ed Markey

The old boss in Western Mass in 2020. (WMP&I)

In selecting Elechko to direct this office, Healey has telegraphed a desire to avoid choosing between politics and capability. There had been speculation in the region about the delay in making this announcement. Perhaps nobody would fill it if nobody could check both boxes. If there was any truth to this, it may be that making a purely political hire was not acceptable.

For now, Healey’s gain is Elechko’s old boss’s loss. However, he has no hard feelings. In a statement to WMP&I, Markey suggested the 413 was still the winner.

“Western Mass is in good hands with Kristen at the helm. Governor Healey has a great team in place with Kristen and LaMar spearheading efforts, and will be an asset to the Healey-Driscoll Administration,” he said.