Western Massachusetts legislators hope Gov. Healey will draw attention to regional needs
Maura Healey was sworn-in as Massachusetts' 73rd governor Thursday. She became the first openly gay person to hold the office, and the first woman elected to the job.
During her inaugural address at the State House, the Democrat focused less on those milestones, and more on her ambitious agenda. One priority will be combating climate change. Healey said creating the nation's first cabinet level climate chief.
"She will work across government and with every city and town to meet our climate goals and achieve our economic potential," Healey said, referring to Melissa Hoffer who will fill the role.
The new governor's inaugural address also focused on creating more affordable housing stock for Massachusetts. Healey said she wants to do that, in part, by turning unused state property into rental units and homes.
That resonated with state Rep. Orlando Ramos, D-Springfield, who was among the western Massachusetts lawmakers attending the inauguration. Ramos represents neighborhoods in Springfield and Chicopee. He said the housing shortage across Hampden County is considerable.
Ramos said the Healey administration has an opportunity to partner with western Massachusetts cities and it's a proposal that could in part address the statewide housing issue.
"It's a win-win. Most state agencies are consolidated in Boston and we have an opportunity to relocate some of those agencies to western Massachusetts cities," Ramos said.
The state could save money on the cost of renting Boston property and bring more professionals to downtown Springfield, Ramos said, where housing costs are lower.
Ramos has proposed this idea before and said he looks forward to discussing it with Governor Healey.
State Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, was also in the legislative chambers during Healey's inauguration. Comerford said she felt a palpable sense of hope, though Healey didn't shy away from the truth that Massachusetts transportation systems were inadequate, and it's for many, the state is unfordable.
Comerford said she plans to be be a strong advocate for Healey's agenda, but with a focus on her own constituents in the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester districts.
"[Healey] talked about food access for students, and what I want to talk about is farms, because western Massachusetts is feeding much of the Commonwealth in our schools, "Comerford said.
She noted Healey's mention of the Quabbin Reservoir as well.
"That's the drinking water for eastern Massachusetts and I want equitable pay for our communities, for stewarding that water," Comerford added. She also said she would continue to push for East-West passenger rail service.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Massachusetts have a history of a partnership Comerford said, and she expects that will continue under Healey.
Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll was also sworn into office Thursday.
Later the Healey administration and thousands of ticket holders celebrated at the TD Garden with performances from Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, DJ Frenchy, OOMPA and Springfield's own SciTech Band from the Springfield High School of Science and Technology.