Gov. Maura Healey got to work quickly on her first full day in office, signing an executive order that established an Office of Climate Innovation and Resilience overseen by a newly appointed climate chief, Melissa Hoffer.
Healey announced her “first order of business” Friday afternoon during her first official press conference, which was held immediately after she met with her Cabinet secretaries at the State House, for the first time as governor.
“It was important to the lieutenant governor and me that we take this action immediately because we have no time to delay,” Healey said, as Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll and members of her Cabinet stood behind her.
“The climate crisis threatens every aspect of Massachusetts, like our environment, economy, businesses, health, transportation, housing, infrastructure. It is our greatest challenge, but it is also our greatest opportunity. Massachusetts can and will be a global leader in the fight against climate change.”
Healey said the new climate office would be charged with “harnessing all of the resources and authority” available to her and the executive department to advance the state’s climate goals.
Hoffer is the “first-ever” climate chief in Massachusetts, which is the first state in the nation to establish such a position at the cabinet level.
Per the executive order, Hoffer is tasked with beginning a comprehensive review of current staffing, policy-making and resources of all cabinet secretaries “to support a whole of government approach to addressing climate change.” She must present her initial findings to Healey and Driscoll within 180 days.
Each cabinet secretary is required, per the order, to appoint a climate officer, who will be “responsible for implementing climate-related efforts” within their relevant executive department, in consultation with Hoffer.
Hoffer previously worked as acting general counsel at the EPA during the early days of the Biden administration, and was chief of Healey’s Environmental Protection Division and Energy and Environmental Bureau while the governor was attorney general.
Healey also announced she had reappointed former Gov. Charlie Baker’s October 2021 pick for secretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, Terrence Reidy, saying that he has a “proven track record of keeping our communities safe.”
Healey appointed Mike Doheny, who most recently worked as general counsel and undersecretary of labor, as acting labor and workforce secretary; and Jennifer Maddox, undersecretary at the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community, as acting housing and economic development secretary.
Healey tapped Mary Beckman, who previously worked as chief of the state Attorney General’s Health Care and Fair Competition Bureau, for acting health and human services secretary.
The search for labor and workforce and health and human services secretaries is active and ongoing, Healey’s office said. Press secretary Karissa Hand said Maddox will serve until permanent appointee Yvonne Hao is sworn in.
Hao, who has 25 years of business executive experience, will be Healey’s housing and economic development secretary until the two executive offices are split, Hand said.
“Once the housing secretary legislation is finalized, her position will become secretary of economic development,” Hand said of Hao. “We will appoint a secretary of housing.”
Healey also needs to appoint a veterans’ services secretary by March. When asked, Healey said her administration is “working as diligently and expeditiously as possible” to fill all of the vacant cabinet secretary positions.
Aside from Hao and two others, Healey’s new cabinet secretaries were sworn in prior to their first cabinet meeting on Friday morning.
In attendance were Hoffer, Maddox, Doheny, Reidy, Beckman, Secretary of Administration and Finance Matt Gorzkowicz, Secretary of Education Patrick Tutwiler, Secretary of Transportation Gina Fiandaca, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Rebecca Tepper, and Secretary of Technology Services and Security Jason Snyder.
“While Gina Fiandaca and Jason Snyder attended today’s cabinet meeting, they will not be sworn in until later in the month so that they can transition out of their current roles,” Hand said. “Secretary Tesler will continue in his role during this interim period and Matthew Moran, who is currently an Assistant Secretary at EOTSS, will be acting technology services and security secretary.”
Healey and Driscoll were scarce on details about what was discussed at the cabinet meeting, with Driscoll only offering that it was “incredibly productive,” and gave those in attendance “a chance to get to know each other.”