BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker told Massachusetts residents Tuesday he was “deeply grateful for the gifts” he received during his two terms as governor as he prepares to step down.
In a five-minute address, the Republican briefly touched on some of the highlights of the past eight years, but spent much of the time thanking the public.
He said some of the best moments came during visits to weekend neighborhood events.
“It was like fuel for me. Watching people do good things to benefit others gave me joy,” he said. “No one cares what party someone belongs to at these events. It’s all just about people helping one another.”
Baker, 66, ticked off a series of what he sees as his administration’s achievements, including returning about $3 billion to taxpayers, adding $7 billion to the state’s rainy day fund, expanding broadband access to western Massachusetts and forging ahead on key infrastructure projects.
He said the state showed its true colors during the COVID-19 pandemic, from creating testing sites and vaccine clinics to making adjustments to work schedules and checking in on neighbors.
“When food pantries got stretched thin local leaders adapted, recruited new volunteers, worked with the National Guard and delivered to their communities,” he said.
Baker acknowledged not everyone agreed with every decisions made during the pandemic, but said the public’s willingness to abide by rules and share in the work helped the state emerge strong.
The address kicks off a series of events marking the transition from Baker to Democrat Maura Healey, the first woman and open member of the LGBTQ community elected Massachusetts governor.
Healey is set to be sworn in Thursday.
Baker faced a series of challenges as governor, from grappling with a beleaguered public transit system to shepherding the state through a pandemic that claimed tens of thousands of state residents.
He also drew the ire of former President Donald Trump by refusing to endorse or vote for the fellow Republican in 2016 and 2020. Trump, in turn, labeled Baker a “RINO” or “Republican In Name Only.”
“Despite the myriad of political fights and distractions that were raging all around us, people here chose to focus on the work and it paid off,” he added.
The country’s largest college sports governing body oversees some 500,000 athletes at more than 1,100 schools. Baker steps into the job in March.
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