Thursday, 4:30 PM
Every holiday season, Galvin gets to be governor
By Andrew Ryan, Glob Staff
Staffing can be difficult for any workplace during the holidays, and the governor's office is no exception. The state's chief executive, Republican Governor Mitt Romney, escapes to a vacation home in Utah each December, while Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey heads south to Florida to her own family hideaway.
In state government, that means the holiday shifts in the executive office usually fall to the same person every year: Secretary of State William F. Galvin. From before Christmas to after the New Year, the Democrat takes the title of "acting governor," keeping himself busy enacting time-sensitive legislation, signing documents, and administering the oath of office to new public officials.
"That's me," Galvin said today in a dry tone, adding that he does not make his staff address him as "acting governor," even if he is filling in as the state's highest office holder. "I'm quite content to be called Bill."
The informal transfer of power is usually done with a phone call. The tasks are largely mundane and administrative. When a governor leaves the state, their duties are passed down the line of succession as outlined in the state Constitution, going first to the lieutenant governor, then to the secretary of state and in rare cases to the attorney general, treasurer, and finally state auditor.
"It's a pretty common thing, even under previous administrations," said Galvin, who pulled out of this year's governor's race well before the Democratic primary. "I don't perceive it as carte blanche to go out and achieve my own agenda."
This afternoon Galvin planned to sign an extradition warrant, and on Wednesday he was scheduled to swear in Edward B. Teague III and Mitchell J. Sikora, two of Romney's late-term judicial nominees. In past years, he has signed laws extending the deadline for cities and towns to issue tax bills, re-authorized group discounts for automobile insurance, and helped oversee security planning for New Year's Eve.
Most bills that are passed by the Legislature during the last week of the year will be left for Romney to consider and sign, Galvin said. Romney, who has spent much of the year out of state gearing up for a likely presidential run, has until 11:59 a.m. on Jan. 4 to act on any pending legislation. The governor is expected to return to Massachusetts by Jan. 2 and leave office the next day.
While Galvin's office does not track how many times he has served as acting governor, it is likely that he has held the post for more time than any of the 28 secretaries of state in Massachusetts history.
During his 12-year tenure, Galvin has been in office during two prolonged periods in which there was no governor, after Governor William F. Weld resigned in 1997 and again when Governor Paul Cellucci stepped down in April 2001. In both cases, the lieutenant governor took over the executive duties for an extended period of time, and Galvin became acting governor whenever they left the state.
He has filled in as chief executive in other instances when the governor and lieutenant governor have both been out of town, including August 2004, when Romney and Healey were both in New York City for the four-day Republican National Convention.
"It's not unusual," Galvin said of the temporary title. "It's just making sure that business gets done."