The story of Gov. Maura Healey’s administration is yet to be written.
But if the energetic crowd at the TD Garden on Thursday night is any indication, there’s a lot of people excited for the stories to be told and the work that lies ahead. Under a sports theme, a nod to Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll’s days on the basketball court, was history.
For the first time in state history, women occupy the governor and lieutenant governor positions. Additionally, Healey is now the first woman elected governor and first lesbian woman to hold the office in Massachusetts — the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004.
Healey’s election is also a step forward for LGBTQ representation in state houses across the country, following the election of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a bisexual woman elected in 2016, and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a gay man, elected in 2019. A second lesbian woman, Gov. Tina Kotek of Oregon, was also elected in 2022.
Sitting in the front row of the TD Garden, Judy Maruca of Charlton said she thought Healey did a tremendous job as attorney general and was excited to be a part of the historic event. She added that she enjoyed seeing the peaceful transition of power with now-former Gov. Charlie Baker.
“I think she’s a strong negotiator and a passionate advocate for housing,” Maruca said of Healey.
The history of Healey’s inauguration was not lost on Maruca.
“It bothers me that [gender] is even still an issue that that should be a factor in how somebody performs a job. There’s reason to celebrate and there’s reason for us to continue to ask why it’s still relevant,” Maruca said.
Supporter Sue Smith-Scott of Charlton said she liked that Healey wasn’t afraid to stand up to the administration of former President Donald Trump.
“The first time I heard her speak was at the [Boston] Women’s March, right after Trump was elected,” Scott-Smith said. “And she gave me hope.”
Speaking from centerstage, Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll said, “For all the little girls out there, we may be the first all-female team leading the state, but we will not be the last.”
As Driscoll’s “teammate” Healey took the stage, she pledged both she and Driscoll were committed to having Massachusetts be “truly a commonwealth.”
“We know like any great team, and I will always be a point guard, it’s about the assist,” Healey said to cheers. “That’s the statistic that matters — the assist — and I know I can count on you people, all across the great state of Massachusetts to do just that.”
On the floor of the event, a number of local dignitaries shared reflections of the historic affair.
State Rep. Michael Kushmerek, D-Fitchburg, said the moment was about the “peaceful and democratic transfer of power from one administration to another.”
“Everybody’s working together seamlessly to make sure that from governor to governor, from Legislature Legislature, that everybody is set up for success to ensure that businesses and residents are going to prosper,” Kushmerek added.
Leominster School Committee member and Executive Director of Ginny’s Helping Hand Brandon Robbins expressed optimism about the state’s future under Healey and Driscoll’s leadership.
“As a School Committee member, education is a top priority for me,” Robbins said. “The administration’s track record for support of public education is strong, and the commitment to funding mechanisms such as the Student Opportunity Act was clear in the governor’s inaugural remarks.”
Robbins added, “Their victory and administration provides an opportunity for everyone of us to see themselves in our leaders. I am excited as they ‘move the ball forward’ and bring our commonwealth forward.”
Lowell Mayor Sokhary Chau said, “There is a new paradigm of openness and inclusion in Massachusetts. Gov. Healey and Lt. Gov. Driscoll are true leaders making history, putting our commonwealth on a new and successful path. Tonight demonstrates the America we love.”
Like Kushmerek, Lowell’s newest Democratic state Rep. Rodney Elliott was in attendance for the swearing-in ceremony and the nighttime celebration. Elliott said both events marked a significant moment in the state’s history.
“At both events you could feel enthusiasm, energy and electricity in the air. We face a lot of challenges but I feel the governor and Legislature are ready and prepared to tackle issues of mental health, affordable housing, infrastructure, and I am very enthusiastic to be part of the House to play a role,” Elliott said after the ceremony.
For state Rep. Natalie Higgins, D-Leominster, it is an incredible moment to have two women leading the commonwealth with the first LGBTQ governor in the state.
“While Massachusetts continues to bring equity to the forefront of our legislation, we don’t always see that equity play out in our reality. While over 20,000 men have been elected to the Massachusetts Legislature, only 232 women have been elected in that same time,” Higgins said. “Further, while Massachusetts has long been a leader on LGBTQ+ rights, we continue to face increased discrimination of our LGBTQ+ neighbors and legislation targeting LGTBQ+ people in schools, libraries, healthcare and more. This week fills me with so much hope as a queer woman in this Commonwealth, and I know it will pave the way for many more firsts.”
Although Democrat Margaret Scarsdale, the 1st Middlesex District state representative-elect, was unable to be seated this week with the rest of her colleagues, she too paused to reflect on the historic moment. She was in attendance as Healey took the oath at the State House.
“What more powerful and meaningful way to once again demonstrate that Massachusetts is a leader than by our inauguration of Maura Healey, our first woman governor and first openly gay governor,” Scarsdale said Friday. “These are not just symbolic firsts: They are a forceful reaffirmation that we understand the importance and power of diversity, of welcoming all voices to the table. Diversity empowers everyone, and is the path towards a better future for all our residents. Gov. Healey is a dedicated and proven leader, and I look forward to working with her administration.”
Headlining the evening’s festivities was six-time Grammy Award winner and Americana extraordinaire Brandi Carlile. Healey said that if she was allowed to have one performer at inauguration, Carlile was her choice.
“I really admire how much she’s put herself out there,” Healey said. “I admire her voice — not just her singing voice of course — but also the voice she gives to so many, so many women, young LGBTQ people. So many people, from whatever walk of life, may have felt vulnerable, may have felt marginalized, may have been made to feel less than.”
In between songs during her set, Carlile said Massachusetts had chosen a “hellraiser” in Healey and shared her own story as a lesbian woman. When she wanted to marry her wife, Catherine Shepherd, she said they did so in Massachusetts, a place they could feel “legitimized.” Throughout the performance, people from the audience could be heard encouraging to Carlile to move to the state permanently.
Sentinel & Enterprise Reporter Danielle Ray contributed to this report.