Housing Secretary Jay Ash Leaves Cabinet Post, Likely for Private Sector

State administration officials announced on Tuesday that former Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash has left his cabinet post as Secretary of Housing and Economic Development – a post he has held for the past four years since leaving Chelsea.

Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced the departure of Ash late Tuesday afternoon, and introduced current HED Assistant Secretary for Business Growth, Mike Kennealy, as incoming Secretary. A press conference was to be held in the State House on Wednesday afternoon and incoming Secretary Kennealy will be sworn in on Friday, Dec. 28.

There was no word what Ash might do next, but some have postulated he might be entering the private sector as a business-based lobbyist. Rumors persisted earlier this fall that Ash might be headed to MassPort as the new executive director. However, at the time, he said that he isn’t considering that post.

“From day one, Jay has worked tirelessly with members of the Legislature, local officials and private companies to enhance economic development, housing and the life sciences industry in Massachusetts,” said Gov. Baker. “Our administration will always be particularly thankful for his work to help reduce the number of homeless families living in hotels and motels, from over 1,500 to less than 40, and his focus on achieving economic growth across the entire Commonwealth. We thank Jay for his public service, wish him well in the future and look forward to welcoming Mike to the cabinet.”

Ash said he was proud to have served in the administration.

“I am proud of what we have accomplished together to grow and strengthen Massachusetts’ economy over the past four years as we worked to empower communities to achieve their economic potential, ensuring prosperity could be shared across the Commonwealth,” said Ash. “Gov. Baker and Lt. Gov. Polito led by example, engaging local and state officials and our vibrant business and nonprofit sectors in an active dialogue, and we followed by identifying opportunities for investment and areas where we could create more support. It was an honor to visit over 200 cities and towns over the last four years. I have been energized and inspired by the ingenuity and tenacity of our municipal, community and business leaders, and I am grateful to Gov. Baker and Lt. Gov. Polito for asking me to serve in this capacity. Incoming Secretary Mike Kennealy is uniquely qualified and played an instrumental role in our first term achievements. Finally, I would like to thank the talented and committed professionals in EOHED and across the administration, who have been generous with their time and talent, and totally committed to the Commonwealth.”

Under Secretary Ash’s leadership, the Baker-Polito administration conceived and pursued an economic development strategy entitled “Opportunities for All,” to bring vitality to communities, prosperity to people and growth for businesses in all regions of the Commonwealth. Key accomplishments include:

  • Transitioned over 1,400 homeless families out of hotels and motels, from 1,500 in 2015 to under 40 today.
  • Partnered with the Legislature to pass two billion-dollar economic development packages in 2016 and 2018, the $1.8 billion housing bonding bill and a $623 million life sciences bill to ensure our continued leadership in this sector on a national and global basis.
  • Delivered $12.5 million in state funding to the Berkshire Innovation Center in Pittsfield, a state-of-the-art facility that will have the potential to serve as life sciences hub for the region.
  • Supported Worcester’s revitalization, including the redevelopment of the Canal District with a recently-announced $35 million infrastructure and HDIP affordable housing investment, made in conjunction with Pawtucket Red Sox relocation, announced in August.
  • Partnered with Springfield on six projects designed to revitalize its downtown revitalization, including the October announcement of the $2.5 million refurbishment of the Paramount Theater, a lynchpin project for the city.
  • Played an important role in Lynn’s economic revitalization as a member of the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) Team – launching a number of commercial and housing projects, including Gateway North residences, which opened in 2018.
  • Served on Gov. Baker’s Workforce Skills Cabinet (comprised of EOLWD, EOHED, EOE secretaries) and drove the creation of 7 regional workforce plans, over $50 million in Skills Capital Grants and the launch of the first registered tech apprenticeship program in the state.
  • Helped facilitate expansions from leading companies like GE, Kronos, MassMutual, MilliporeSigma and Siemens.

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