Jay Ash took the oath of office from Governor Charlie Baker as the new Secretary of Housing and Economic Development at an impressive ceremony held Jan. 8 at the State House Library in Boston.
Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito personally congratulated Ash and the other Cabinet Secretaries following the swearing-in ceremony.
With his wife, Susan, looking on proudly from the the front row, Ash, the former city manager, talked about his new position and his decision to leave his hometown for a major role on Beacon Hill.
“This is a tremendous honor – my heart is heavy thinking about Chelsea,” said Ash. “But the opportunity that’s been presented to lead the Commonwealth, along with better economic development and joining a great team with Lt. Governor Polito and Governor Baker – it’s really one that I relish and I’m excited to get to work.”
State officials in attendance said they were well aware of Ash’s sterling record as city manager over the past 14 years. Many felt that Chelsea’s selection in June as an All-America City by the National Civic League – the lone city in New England to receive the prestigious award – affirmed Ash’s excellent leadership and the lasting impact he has had on daily life in the community in which he grew up and attended school.
Those who traveled to Denver with the Chelsea delegation will remember mayors and city manager from coast to coast approaching Ash at the national conference to talk about his work in making the city of Chelsea a national model for urban renewal and neighborhood development, and his assistance to highly regarded, community-based agencies such as ROCA, the Chelsea Collaborative, and The Neighborhood Developers.
Others praised the 6-foot-7-inch former Clark University basketball star for his efforts in completing several development projects in the city. The rise of Wyndham and Marriott Residence Inn hotels in the Everett Avenue district and the plans for four additional hotels being built in the city – along with the construction of the new FBI project – are considered crowning achievements in the Ash Administration.
Chelsea High Athletic Director Frank DePatto has followed Ash’s career from Chelsea to Clark and back to Chelsea where Ash made his mark as city manager.
“This is a great day for the state of Massachusetts but a big loss to Chelsea, but a big gain for the state,” said DePatto, one of Ash’s mentors. “I wish Jay everything he wishes for himself and I know he’ll be very successful in this new endeavor.”
Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes, who worked closely with Ash in making the city a safe community, said, “This is a proud moment for Chelsea and for all of his friends to see Jay elevated to this position. I’m looking forward to the great things he’s going to be doing for the city and the state. It’s bittersweet, though. I shook his hand and said, ‘I miss you already.’’’
City Council President Leo Robinson said that Governor Baker “has hit a home run” with his appointment of Jay Ash to this position.
“Jay is going to have a perspective about all the urban communities and I see a lot of development that’s going to take place throughout the state,” said Robinson.
Chief Secretary Carlo Basile, former state representative from East Boston, is looking forward to working with Ash in the Baker Administration.
“I have known Jay Ash for a number of years,” said Basile. “He is a very smart, intellectual, and hard-working person. I look forward to doing good things with him. Jay Ash was a great selection on behalf of Governor Baker.”
Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tomkins also lauded Ash’s elevation to Cabinet Secretary.
“I think Jay Ash’s appointment is awesome,” said Tomkins. “Jay really has his finger on the pulse when you talk about housing and economic development – how you swing that pendulum from not being productive to being very productive. Jay is the apt man to get that done.”
“I think Jay Ash is going to be just amazing for the state,” said former Senate president Therese Murray, who attended the ceremony. “He gets it. He was in the building [State House] so he knows how it works. He’s been outside the building knowing what the needs are, so he going to hit the ground running – I’m very excited.”
Asked if he will return to Chelsea on occasion, Ash said, “I will be back often. And even when I’m not in Chelsea, a piece of my heart will still be there.”