Healey names Gobi director of rural affairs – CommonWealth Magazine


SEN. ANNE GOBI will leave the Legislature to fill a newly created post in the Healey administration, triggering a special election in the central Massachusetts district she represents.

Gov. Maura Healey announced Monday that she tapped Gobi to become the state’s first director of rural affairs. The Spencer Democrat will serve “as a dedicated advocate and ombudsman cultivating economic development within rural communities,” Healey’s office said.

Gobi will start her new job June 5, according to Healey’s office. Her Senate departure date is unclear.

The Senate this week plans to meet over several days to advance its $55.8 billion fiscal year 2024 state budget.

“We are building an economy that benefits all communities, businesses, and people in Massachusetts, particular [sic] those that are too often overlooked and underrepresented like rural and small towns,” Healey said. “Senator Gobi’s fierce advocacy of rural equity, agricultural and small businesses, and conservation initiatives makes her the ideal candidate to help our rural towns across the state succeed.”

When the Senate agrees to an order setting a special election date, Secretary of State William Galvin will announce a primary date.

The Worcester and Hampshire district she represents, which was redrawn in the latest round of redistricting, stretches across much of the state’s middle, from Gardner in the north to Brookfield in the south and from the westernmost part of Worcester out to Ware.

At least four state representatives live in Gobi’s district: Republican Reps. Kimberly Ferguson of Holden, Donald Berthiaume of Spencer, and Peter Durant of Spencer, and Democrat Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik of Gardner. In Worcester, Gobi’s constituency overlaps with the House districts represented by Democrats Reps. John Mahoney and David LeBoeuf.

Former Rep. Kate Campanale, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican lieutenant governor nomination in 2022, lives in Spencer, and the Democratic Party’s nominee for Worcester County sheriff last year, David Fontaine, lives in Paxton. Campanale and Durant are married.

Gobi has handily defeated a string of challengers over the years, but joined the House and Senate after a pair of close contests.

First elected as a state representative in a 2001 special election that she won by 17 votes, Gobi won election to the Senate after defeating Republican Michael Valanzola by 398 votes, 50.3 percent to 49.6 percent, in the 2014 election.

Gobi serves as Senate chair of the newly created Joint Committee on Agriculture Committee, and her departure will require Senate President Karen Spilka to tap another Democrat to fill that role. Sen. Jo Comerford is the Senate vice chair of that panel.

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Reporter, State House News Service

Amid a power struggle between some House and Senate joint committee chairs, Gobi said last week that the “grass is truly greener in the agriculture committee,” where she said she enjoys working with co-chair Rep. Paul Schmid and they have already finished holding hearings on every bill in their custody.

Gobi co-founded the Sportsmen’s Caucus, which convenes supporters of fishing, hunting, and other outdoor activities, according to the Healey administration, which said that prior to being elected as a representative, she taught at Leicester High School, had her own law office, and worked with victims of domestic violence at Central Massachusetts Legal Assistance. She graduated from Worcester State University and the Massachusetts School of Law.


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