Editorial: Paul Cellucci

With former Gov. Paul Cellucci’s death earlier this week, the nation lost someone who was part of a political generation where public service was the primary motivation.

Indeed, Cellucci was part of a what is now a shrinking group — Northeast Republicans who truly understood what bipartisanship means.

It’s those qualities we remember ... when one’s desire to serve the public was not an issue, but a given, even when there were disagreements over public policy questions. That’s something hard to find these days, and that leaves government, at both the state and the national levels, all the poorer.

Personable and hardworking, Cellucci, it might even be argued, was one of those rare politicians who never seemed to take himself too seriously. That served him well throughout his political career, which had its beginnings as a member of the charter commission for Hudson and then as a selectman there. These posts then propelled him to the state Legislature where he served both in the House and the Senate.

And when William Weld tapped him to run for lieutenant governor, the two presented voters with an unlikely team — the erudite Weld who was running as an outsider, and Cellucci as the common man versed in local and state politics. This pairing made sense to many Massachusetts voters who put this fiscally conservative and socially moderate Republican ticket into the offices on Beacon Hill.

Cellucci took over as governor when Weld resigned in 1997 in what turned out to be a failed nomination to become the U.S. ambassador for Mexico ... when the infamous Republican senator from North Carolina, Jesse Helms, blocked President Clinton’s appointment. Cellucci, as it turned out, also was picked to be an ambassador, by President George W. Bush, to represent our interests with Canada, a job he held for four years.

His legacy includes tapping Jane Swift to be his lieutenant governor as well as Margaret Marshall as Supreme Judicial Court chief justice.

It was after his stint as ambassador and a return to Hudson that the public learned that the former governor had been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — and it was complications from the disease that killed him at the age of 65.

Perhaps Robert DeLeo, the House speaker now, said it best. “Paul was looked at as the middle class, working person’s governor. There were no airs about him. He knew how to communicate and to touch people’s lives.”

Those are qualities we wish more of today’s politicians would emulate.

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