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Outgoing representative gets Treasury post

Grossman defends L’Italien as savvy, respected official

SUPPORTIVE WORDS “I picked the best person I knew and the best person I could find,” Steven Grossman said of Barbara L’Italien. SUPPORTIVE WORDS
“I picked the best person I knew and the best person I could find,” Steven Grossman said of Barbara L’Italien.
By Matt Murphy
State House News Service / November 23, 2010

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Treasurer-elect Steven Grossman has begun to round out his senior leadership team, tapping a top-ranking House Democrat who lost her reelection bid and two former campaign workers to join his administration at the Treasury in January.

Grossman, who will succeed Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, announced yesterday that he had hired Barbara L’Italien, vice chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee, to become his director of government affairs.

L’Italien, a four-term state representative and former social worker from Andover, will earn $100,000 a year.

“I’ve known Steve Grossman to be a man of incredible character and was intrigued by the idea of being his government affairs person. I think that position will involve interfacing with the governor, the speaker, and Senate president, and I think I can do a very good job working on his behalf to push his agenda forward,’’ L’Italien said yesterday.

Ousted from her seat three weeks ago by Republican Jim Lyons, L’Italien said last week that she had a strong interest in remaining in public service, indicating that she would have a hard time walking away from her “eight-year investment in government and policy.’’

Grossman later confirmed that he was in discussions with the Andover Democrat about potential roles for her in the Treasury.

L’Italien said Grossman, who defeated state Representative Karyn Polito on Nov. 2, called her a few days after the election to gauge her interest in joining his team.

“I think Barbara is an uncommonly talented individual,’’ Grossman said yesterday. “I think Barbara has earned the respect of legislative leaders on both sides of the building, as well as the executive. I think she’s earned the respect of municipal leaders, mayors, and others she’s come in contact with and, frankly, I can’t think of a better person to be our key liaison to the Senate, the House, the executive branch, and to mayors and other municipal officials than Barbara L’Italien.’’

The Massachusetts Republican Party last week was highly critical of the potential hiring of L’Italien, arguing that it was another example of Democrats ignoring voters to take care of their own.

“Voters in 12 districts dismissed their incumbent Democrat representatives in favor of new leadership and ideas. Now we see the ‘Democrat machine’ in action finding them jobs, and only in state government does being fired actually mean a higher salary and bigger pension,’’ said Jennifer Nassour, chairwoman of the state’s Republican Party. “These types of self-serving shenanigans are exactly the reason state government finances are a mess and taxes continue to climb.’’

L’Italien defended her hiring, saying that despite losing her bid for reelection she had been one of the “most productive’’ lawmakers on Beacon Hill over the past session, working for her constituents while helping to guide the state through a tough budget cycle. She was the highest ranking of 12 incumbent Democrats to lose their seats.

“I think I have a strong resume that will only strengthen Steve Grossman’s team,’’ L’Italien said.

Asked about potential criticism for hiring L’Italien, Grossman credited her with having an “innovative and imaginative’’ approach to government.

“I picked the best person I knew and the best person I could find. And that was it. As I said I called her, she didn’t call me. That’s how much I think of Barbara, and that’s how much I’m thrilled she accepted this position,’’ Grossman said.

Grossman also named Quincy native Francis Orlando, the 25-year-old political director of his campaign, as deputy director of government affairs and 62-year-old Al Gordon, his campaign policy and communications director, as director of policy.

Gordon, like L’Italien, will earn $100,000 in his new role, according to Grossman, while Orlando will receive a salary of $60,000 a year.

Grossman said the hires fall within the current structure of the Treasury where there is a three-person government affairs team, and he said he intends to live within the Treasury’s budget as he makes future personnel decisions.