Sen. Walsh taking $175K job at HEFA

Staff reports

The Massachusetts Health and Educational Facilities Authority is poised to offer a $175,000 assistant executive director position today to state Sen. Marian Walsh.

Walsh, a West Roxbury Democrat, would take a job that has gone unfilled for several years, and at a time when the state is mired in a deep fiscal crisis, with heavy layoffs in state and local government.

The authority, known as HEFA, helps non-profit institutions obtain tax-exempt financing for capital projects. Its board is planning to vote on Walsh’s appointment at a 1 pm meeting, officials said.

Officials said Walsh, recently demoted by Senate President Therese Murray, was selected because of her experience in the Legislature.

“There were a number of candidates that were looked at and Sen. Walsh filled the qualifications of a legislative background,” said HEFA spokesman Liam Sullivan.

Said Walsh, “I want to foremost thank my constituents for their support and friendship through my years of elected public service. I am eternally grateful to them. I am very excited for the opportunity to join the team at HEFA as they continue their mission of expanding citizen access to quality education, health care, human services, and cultural opportunities. I look forward to working with Ben Caswell and the entire Board and staff of HEFA as we optimize this vital agency’s role through expanded partnerships and cooperation with other stakeholders.” 

Walsh’s departure would likely touch off a fierce contest for the Senate seat she has held since 1993. Her West Roxbury home is at the epicenter of one of the most politically active districts in the state.

Last year, when Walsh was in the running for a judgeship, several officeholders lined up for the prospective opening. Walsh later said she had withdrawn her name.

The move would bring a significant boost in salary for Walsh. Base pay for legislators is $61,440, with those in leadership positions earning more.

Sullivan said the agency had spoken with an outside consultant in determining the compensation, which he said was comparable to salaries for similar positions at other state agencies and public authorities.

HEFA said Walsh’s appointment comes as the agency plans to form a panel that would find ways to integrate operations with MassDevelopment.

“In light of creating that committee, the assistant executive director position will be filling the role of reaching out to these other agencies and coordinating with these other agencies, which is why it was critical to have someone who is familiar with the legislative and state process,” Sullivan said.

“It’s a position that’s been unfilled for a number of years,” Sullivan said.

An aide said Walsh was not available early Thursday afternoon because she was attending the funeral service for former Speaker George Keverian.

In response to News Service questions, Walsh’s office released a statement from the senator, in which she described herself as “very excited” to join HEFA.