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For the last time while in office, Gov. Charlie Baker stepped into the studio at GBH to appear on “Ask the Governor” Thursday afternoon.
The mood was light and celebratory for the most part, though Baker did discuss more serious topics such as broadband access in the commonwealth, the opioid crisis, and the South Coast Rail project.
Baker’s time as governor will come to an end in January when Gov.-elect Maura Healey is sworn in. Baker called the last days of his term bittersweet.
“I mean obviously, Karyn Polito and I have really appreciated the time we’ve been able to spend with the people in Massachusetts for the past eight years, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Baker said. “But I think both of us believed that it was appropriate not to run again. And I think we’re leaving the state better than we found it, which considering the fact that there was a pandemic in the middle of it, we think is pretty cool.”
Amid texts and calls from listeners, hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan welcomed a few special guests, much to Baker’s apparent delight.
The first special guest to grace the airwaves was former Gov. Bill Weld, who hired “baby Baker” during his tenure as Massachusetts governor in the ‘90s.
The caller preceding Weld asked Baker about any plans to run for future office (Baker soundly said he does not plan to be on any ticket in 2024) and spoke about their voting record, which included both Baker and Weld.
Braude reacted to Baker’s agreement that Weld was a good governor and then welcomed the next caller, who, as you may have guessed, was none other than Weld himself.
“Hey, Governor Baker. This is a Bill from Canton and it’s Bill Weld and I appreciate the conversation,” Weld said, prompting loud laughter from Baker.
“I did want to call in and congratulate you on a great run. You got an awful lot done,” Weld said. “Although, you know, in my view, you kind of did it the hard way. You worked at it all the time. It would have been so much easier if you had some guy, for example Charlie Baker, working for you, as I did, to take care of all the financial stuff and the big issues like health care. Next time, you’ll want to think about that.”
Before briefly quizzing Baker on Massachusetts fun facts, Braude asked Weld what working with Baker was like during Weld’s administration.
“It was kind of effortless on my part. I used to joke that my key didn’t work on weekends, it wasn’t quite true but it was almost true. I didn’t need to work too much,” Weld said.
Baker did not successfully answer Weld’s question of what Massachusetts translates to in the language of the Native American tribes in the area, nor did he know what the call letters WGBH stand for. (Hint: The answers are related)
After taking a few more listener calls and a lengthy discussion of the fact that Baker hasn’t driven a car in eight years (and he says he has no idea how to drive new cars anymore), Gov.-elect Maura Healey rang in.
“Let’s take a call. I am not sure if I can read this right, but I think it’s Maura from Cambridge and if I got wrong, my apologies,” Braude said. “Maura, welcome to the show.”
A self-proclaimed longtime listener and first-time caller, Healey’s first few words prompted lots of laughs from Baker.
“Even though he’s laughing at me? I do want to thank him for his incredible service to the commonwealth,” Healey said. “I just want to thank you governor for how great you and your team has been throughout this transition. There’s an awful lot of work and there’s an awful lot of work to get done and your teams have just been tremendous and you’ve been tremendous in setting the tone for that. So I am grateful. I’m very, very grateful.”
Baker echoed her sentiments and assured her that her time in office will be “one of the most maddening and amazing professional experiences” she will ever have.
Then, Healey asked for one favor.
“Well, I’m cleaning out my office, you’re cleaning out yours, the stuff that’s really up on the high shelf, is there like a ladder?” Healey asked.
Baker assured listeners that he would “respond appropriately” to that, and then the conversation turned to a basketball game the two shared when they were both originally elected. “How did that go?” Braude asked.
“She won. You knew the answer to that Jim, that’s why you asked,” Baker said. Healey contradicted slightly, saying it was a draw.
Turning to one of Baker and Healey’s shared focuses, the opioid crisis, Healey thanked Baker and his administration for their work on the matter.
“I think we’ve made a lot of progress. There’s always work to be done,” Healey said. “I appreciate the governor’s willingness to spend so much time out and about publicly and also privately with folks with families, and I think it really helps to make people more comfortable and to deal with stigma. … I’m going to look to make sure that we’re making the investments to address issues of mental health and substance use disorder.”
Rounding out the program was “somebody from Dorchester” who turned out to be a well-known Boston voice, former Mayor Marty Walsh.
“I have a lot of complaints with the governor,” was Walsh’s opening line, drawing laughter from the studio once again.
“I want to congratulate you. I missed you at the airport yesterday. But seriously, in all seriousness, when I was the mayor, and you were the governor, we went through a lot, particularly on COVID. And I want to thank you for all you’ve done for the commonwealth publicly because you’re a great governor, you are a good man, good friend,” Walsh said.
Amid jokes about Walsh’s appearances on this same radio show, Baker thanked him for his work.
“I just want to say thank you so much for calling and I learned a lot from you over the course of our time together and I really appreciated it and we got, as you say, a lot of stuff done,” Baker said.
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