Gov. Charlie Baker pauses at the State House front gate during his "lone walk" out of office, accompanied by his wife Lauren (left), and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and her husband Steve Rodolakis (right). Photo by Sam Doran | State House News Service

On the final evening of his eight years in office, Gov. Charlie Baker took his ceremonial final steps through the corridors and out to the Beacon Street sidewalk Wednesday. It’s called the “lone walk,” but he was hardly alone, accompanied by his lieutenant governor and their spouses, and cheered on by scores of well-wishers throughout the capitol.

One of Baker’s former chiefs of staff, Steve Kadish, reflected on watching his friend of more than 30 years “grow in every single role that he’s done,” which spans Baker’s tenures as an undersecretary, leading two secretariats, turning around Harvard Pilgrim Health Care as CEO, and his present role.

“I mean he was always so smart, but he has grown so much with his compassion for people and so seeing this [the lone walk] is watching really a great man finish this chapter of his life. So I’m sad, I’m proud, I’ve got great respect and admiration,” Kadish told the News Service.

Kadish left the governor’s employ in 2017, and they later coauthored a book together. For current administration officials watching Wednesday’s ceremony, it was a transition not just for Baker but for them, too.

Education Secretary Jim Peyser started with Baker on Day One – the day after the 2014 election – leading his transition team. He’s one of two Cabinet secretaries, along with Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, to have served through the entirety of both terms. It’s the end of a chapter for them.

“I mean, I’m feeling good. I think this administration accomplished a lot, I feel we did a lot in education as well, and I think it’s great to leave on a note where you feel you’ve left something behind. I think we have,” said Peyser.

Former Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash said he was happy Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito were “going out on their own terms,” and he viewed Wednesday’s proceedings as more of a celebration of accomplishment.

“So it’s a lot of sad faces about ‘this is the end,’ but collectively over eight years, there’s been a lot of good things happening, we’re feeling pretty good about it,” Ash, one of the Democrats to serve in top roles under Baker, said.

One of the legislature’s two top Democrats, Senate President Karen Spilka, offered that it was a “bittersweet” night in view of how they “work[ed] together to accomplish a lot,” and Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, a Western Mass. Democrat, said he was there “paying my respect” to an administration that’s “been a good partner.”

“It’s not only historical, and I don’t think party politics has anything to do with it, it’s a special time. I think we’ve had a tremendous eight years of working together, and I’m going to miss the governor. I’ll especially miss the lieutenant governor. I think she’s reshaped that entire position for the next lieutenant governor and lieutenant governors to come,” Pignatelli said.

Auburn Republican Rep. Paul Frost said he respected how Baker and Polito “carried themselves” and paid attention to everyone’s local districts, and called it “a sad day, indeed.”

“It’s an historical moment, of course, whenever this happens, and part of the changing of the guard, but the opportunity to see it – and see two people that I care about leave a job that they did a great job of, and you know, most popular governor in the country, so it goes without saying you’re sad to see them leave. And we’ll see what the new era brings,” Frost told the News Service.

That new era – Gov.-elect Maura Healey and Lt. Gov.-elect Kim Driscoll – paid a customary visit to the governor’s office at 1:58 p.m. Wednesday for a ceremonial transfer of the symbols of the office during a private meeting that lasted close to 45 minutes.

In addition to the artifacts that change hands between governors, Baker also presented Healey with a token of his own – a military challenge coin in remembrance of SFC Jared Monti of Abington, a fallen soldier who served with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan.

Polito presented Driscoll with the gavel used to preside over Governor’s Council meetings, and Baker handed another gavel made from the original frame of the USS Constitution to Healey.

Also handed over were the “Butler Bible,” a volume of Holy Scripture left behind by Gov. Benjamin Butler in 1884 for the use of his successors; a large skeleton key which, in days of old, opened the door to what is now the governor’s corner office; and volumes of the Mass. General Laws which since 1860 have been inscribed with short, handwritten messages from one governor to the next.

Baker’s press secretary did not provide the contents of Baker’s note to Healey. Unlike Baker’s meeting with then-Gov. Deval Patrick in 2015, there was no champagne on the menu, Press Secretary Terry MacCormack said, and the fireplace wasn’t lit.

Before he made his exodus from Room 360 later in the day, Gold Star Mothers and military servicemembers were keeping vigil in the Memorial Hall, and outside Baker’s office stood to rows of Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company members lining the corridor. One of the Ancients closest to the door was Enoch “Woody” Woodhouse, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen.

The Ancients, who serve as the governor’s ceremonial honor guard, came to attention at 5:04 p.m. and Baker walked out of the office for the final time as governor.

The ceremony was a few minutes behind schedule, and Scott Conway, one of Baker’s old advance staff from earlier in his tenure, was on hand outside the House Chamber to wave them on and get the parade moving down the hall.

Out in front of the 228-year-old State House, it was 44 degrees and misty, and a lot of the eyes were misty, too.

Up at the top of the steps stood three of the other Constitutional officers, including Secretary William Galvin who’s seen eight governors come and go during his time in elected office.

Behind the fencing stood well-wishers of all ages, including Jessica Shaye and the three Shaye girls, Maya, Samara, and Catalaya, ages 4 to 8, with their bicycles. They’re Beacon Hill residents, took a tour of the State House last month, and rode over from just around the corner to witness the historical event unfold.

The song “Jump On It” played over the loudspeakers, a pipe and drum band regaled the crowd, and rangers from the Department of Conservation and Recreation hauled open the giant central doors of the State House. Those main capitol doors are reserved for special occasions, like governors departing office or foreign heads of state dropping in for a visit.

Baker, Polito, and their spouses walked down the steps and paused as everyone came to attention for the National Anthem. Matchbox Twenty’s “How Far We’ve Come” was queued up as Baker stepped through the final gate, and he gave plenty of hugs and took plenty of selfies. As he greeted his Cabinet secretaries just past the bottom step, a small chant of “Four More Years” rang out from somewhere on the sidewalk.

The supreme executive magistrate hopped into his waiting SUV at 5:53 p.m., and while he’ll still be the governor until noon tomorrow, he had symbolically returned to life as a private citizen.

Tears streamed down the face of one former Baker aide as he passed the press box on Beacon Street. Baker himself is known for showing his emotions and has cried at a number of public events, but his eyes appeared dry.

“He is just this side of tears,” his former chief of staff Kadish said before the walk. “And I think the activity of one event after another is good, and this is something – the job that he is leaving is one of the roles that he has wanted to do for a long time, and he ran through the tape. And he had everyone on the team run through the tape. So to me, when I just saw him, he also looked tired.”

Baker’s Legacy Praised on ‘Lone Walk’

by State House News Service time to read: 5 min