Governor Bridges Public, Private Gap

When the Governor wants to talk, Massachusetts House representative Bradley H. Jones, R-North Reading, says he does something that not many executives do.

Instead of calling Jones into his office for a meeting, Gov. W. Mitt Romney (R) often appears, unannounced, in the House Minority Leader’s doorway.

“He’s been known to stroll down to the office just to talk,” Jones says. “That goes into what kind of a person he is.”

In his campaign this fall, Romney cast himself as a political outsider—the kind of person who could use his extensive private-sector experience to “clean up the mess” of inefficiency and corruption that he said plagued Beacon Hill.

Romney’s business background and outsider status give him “a fresh perspective and a clean eye” in government, according to Lt. Governor Kerry M. Healy ’82.

But at times, they can also make his job as a Massachusetts politician more difficult.

Romney’s opponents, from Senator Edward M. Kennedy ’54-’56, D-Mass—whose position he challenged in 1994—to then-Treasurer of the Commonwealth and gubernatorial opponent Shannon P. O’Brien, have attempted to cast him as a hardhearted deal maker, insensitive to local constituents’ needs.

O’Brien’s campaign ads last October featured interviews with workers laid off from jobs at companies that were bought out by Romney’s investment firm, Bain Capital.

Romney countered with an ad accusing O’Brien of mismanaging state funds and capitulating to a corrupt insider culture on Beacon Hill.

When Romney was asked by Kennedy School of Government (KSG) Dean Joseph S. Nye to give this year’s Commencement address, students drafted a petition demanding that the Governor not speak.

“The Kennedy School is dedicated to training leaders who forgo opportunities for profit in the private sector in order to serve the common good,” the petition’s author, first-year KSG student Stephen L. Rabin, wrote in an op-ed in The Crimson in May. “Romney spent his business career at Bain Capital putting self above the common good.”

Responding to the petition, KSG administrators said they would include student input in next year’s selection process.

But Joseph McCarthy, senior associate dean at the KSG, who served on the committee that made recommendations to Nye, defends the choice of Romney as this year’s speaker.

McCarthy says that Romney is more than qualified to provide insight into the traditional Commencement day subject of public service.

“He has been in all three sectors,” McCarthy says, “the private sector, government and NGO. That’s something we want our students to think about.”

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