Year in Review: 1997


Re-rank the list of top news stories of 1997


Find out more about:

Princess Diana's death stuns the world

Weld steps out -
Cellucci steps forward

Mother Teresa is laid
to rest at age 87

Chinese rule returns
to Hong Kong

Supreme Court strikes
down 'Net decency act

UPS strike disrupts thousands of firms

Heaven's Gate cult commits mass suicide

Mars Pathfinder explores Red Planet

Ellen comes out, marking a first in TV

For the first time, a mammal is cloned

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Check out the top sports stories of 1997

'Citizen Weld' steps out; Cellucci steps forward

By Frank Phillips and Adrian Walker, Globe Staff, 07/30/97

William F. Weld shakes hands with the new Acting Governor Paul Cellucci on the State House steps. William F. Weld shakes hands with the new Acting Governor Paul Cellucci on the State House steps.


6 1/2 years, never a shortage of style

In a ceremony designed to highlight their extraordinary political partnership, William F. Weld and Paul Cellucci stood side-by-side on the State House steps yesterday, following the effortless transfer of the power they had shared for more than six years.

``It's all yours,'' Weld told Cellucci, gesturing to the 200-year old State House, as a crowd of thousands cheered them. With that wave of his hand, Weld returned to private life and Cellucci stepped out of the shadows, now the acting governor of Massachusetts.

Today, Cellucci plans to make quick use of new authority -- and to underscore the continuity between Weld's priorities and his own -- by calling for a tax cut, sources say. A Cellucci aide declined last night to elaborate on the nature of the tax proposal, one of a series of initiatives the acting governor has planned for the early days of his administration.

For his part, Weld seemed content yesterday to leave his gubernatorial powers behind. Ending a colorful and popular tenure two days before his 52d birthday, he strode out of the State House into the throng that had gathered to bid him farewell under a bright July sun.

Weld, who announced Monday he was resigning in order to give his full attention to pressing for his long-shot bid to win confirmation as US ambassador to Mexico, made the traditional walk down the State House steps, clambered into his family's Chevrolet Suburban van and drove with his wife, Susan, and three of their children -- David, 20, Mary, 18, and Franny 13 -- to their Cambridge home.

Weld made the ceremonial walk through the rarely used front doors of the State House shortly after 5 p.m., the hour when his resignation took effect and when Cellucci, who has been his loyal lieutenant governor and closest ally on Beacon Hill, automatically became acting governor.

To highlight the smooth transition, Weld and Cellucci broke tradition and for the first time in memory an outgoing and incoming governor stood together on the State House steps to conclude the transfer of power.

The Massachusetts National Guard's 101st Field Artillery fired off a deafening 19-gun salute to the new governor from three cannons located on Boston Common.

The 215th Army Band played as Weld, the 68th governor of the Commonwealth, returned to private life.

After Weld and his family drove off, Cellucci, a 49-year-old Hudson native who has spent the last 20 years on Beacon Hill as a state representative, state senator, and lieutenant governor, walked up to the governor's third-floor office to begin serving out the remaining 17 months of Weld's second term.

``I've had the advantage of having been with him every step of the way, watching and learning, and I am ready,'' Cellucci said shortly after the ceremony.

Weld now sets off on a national campaign to try to force Senator Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to schedule a hearing on his nomination for the Mexico post. Helms has pledged not to allow any official action on Weld's nomination.

Nonetheless, Weld appeared unflappable as always yesterday, a man of no apparent regrets. Arriving at the State House shortly before 1 p.m. Weld said he felt ``somewhat upbeat'' about his prospects and shrugged off those who said he was foolish to have been openly critical of Helms.

``I don't agree with those who say that I've broken with precedent by being critical of the chairman,'' Weld said.

``Before I had ever met him, before the man really knew anything about me, he said I was unfit to be ambassador, had loose lips and was soft on drugs, and I said, `Where does Jesse Helms get off saying all these mean things about me?' and people in Washington threw up their hands in alarm and said, `My goodness, he attacked the chairman.'

``I mean, that's Alice in Wonderland,'' Weld said.

Weld also seemed at ease about his sudden change of station, from ``His Excellency'' the governor to private citizen.

``I'm looking forward to being a man instead of `the man', '' Weld told reporters. ``Citizen Weld sounds pretty good to me. Not as good as Ambassador Weld, but Citizen Weld sounds good.''

Less than hour before Weld's ``lone walk'' out the State House doors, Weld and Cellucci, along with their wives and children, met in the governor's office where Weld presented the new chief executive with the symbols of powers that have been passed on from outgoing to incoming governors.

A corps of legislators, aides and well wishers, including Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees of East Longmeadow, House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, and House Minority Leader David Peters of Charlton gathered in the suite outside Weld's office. Finneran, in an effort to break the tension, presented Weld a farewell bottle of vintage Dom Perignon.

``I'm not a drinking man,'' quipped Weld, who is well known to be a drinking man.

``I understand it was Winston Churchill's favorite breakfast drink,'' replied Finneran.

The transfer itself was breezy and brief. The so-called ``transmittendum'' include a pewter key to the office. ``I am reliably informed it works on weekends,'' Weld quipped, poking fun at his often-criticized work ethic.

Weld also turned over the Butler Bible that was left by departing Governor Benjamin F. Bulter in 1884 to his successor and has been handed over to each new governor since then.

In addition, Weld followed the tradition of inscribing a two-volume set of the General Statutes that date back to 1860. The inscription reads: ``Transmitted to Argeo Paul Cellucci on the 29th of July, 1997, with deeply held best wishes from an always grateful William F. Weld.''

``It was terrific to have you at my side always. Thank you, governor,'' Weld told Cellucci, shaking his hand.

Cellucci's wife, Jan, and his parents, Argeo and Priscilla Cellucci, sat next to him.

After turning over the book to Cellucci, Weld turned to his wife and gave her hug and kiss. ``You got the Suburban? Is it out of gas?'' he asked her.

As they drove away, televison news helicopters hovered overhead and followed the Weld van -- which was badly in need of a wash -- through Boston over to Cambridge to the Welds' Fayerweather Street house.

The back bumper of the car was sporting a sticker -- ``Privatize Weld'' -- a union slogan used to denounce the governor for his privatizing state services. The sticker was put on at the instigation of Susan Weld.

Arriving at his home, Weld made quick work of a few questions from reporters then closed the gate and ambled up his driveway. ``Here's the lone walk,'' he quipped.

Yesterday's transfer of power ended a remarkable, and unlikely, partnership that dated back to 1989, when Weld persuaded Cellucci, then a Republican state senator from Hudson pondering his own run for governor, to serve as his running mate.

That began a collaboration unprecedented in state history. In contrast to the traditionally distant relationship between governors and lieutenant governors, Weld and Cellucci governed the state almost as equals. They made personnel and policy decisions together, collaborated on judicial appointments, and never showed any sign of personal or philosophical tension.

In his first full day as governor, Cellucci will today meet with his senior staff and then make the rounds on Beacon Hill to talk with Democratic legislative leaders. He also plans a press conference to unveil his tax proposal.

Cellucci is faced with the task of making a positive and strong impression on Massachusetts voters, who do not have a clear image of him. To hold onto his office, he must beat back a Republican gubernatorial challenge from State Treasurer Joseph Malone and beat the Democratic nominee in November 1998.

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