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Gov. Charlie Baker's Housing Chief Jay Ash Is Stepping Down

Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. (Sam Doran/State House News Service)
Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. (Sam Doran/State House News Service)

In the second shakeup of his Cabinet since Gov. Charlie Baker won reelection in November, the Baker administration announced Tuesday afternoon that Secretary Jay Ash is leaving the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development this week.

Mike Kennealy, assistant secretary for business growth, will be sworn in Friday as the new secretary, according to Baker's office.

The release announcing the transition did not say why Ash was leaving the administration. It said a press conference is planned for Wednesday afternoon at the State House.

Ash, a former Chelsea city manager who has led the economic development secretariat since Baker took office in 2015, has been pursuing the top job at the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership and in 2016 was one of three finalists for the Cambridge city manager job. Spokespeople for Ash and Baker did not immediately respond when asked the reason for Ash's departure.

"It was an honor to visit over 200 cities and towns over the last four years," Ash said in a statement. "I have been energized and inspired by the ingenuity and tenacity of our municipal, community and business leaders, and I am grateful to Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor Polito for asking me to serve in this capacity."

The announcement comes less than two weeks after Tom Turco was sworn in as the new secretary of public safety and security, following the departure of Daniel Bennett. Elder Affairs Secretary Alice Bonner, whose post is not Cabinet-level, plans to depart in January, and former MBTA general manager Luis Ramirez left last week after 15 months on the job.

Ash described Kennealy as "uniquely qualified" for the post. As assistant secretary, he has served as co-chair of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center board and served as the center's interim CEO in 2015.

A Lexington resident, Kennealy began his career working in private equity and later spent two years as the special advisor to the Lawrence Public Schools receiver.

"I have been inspired by the ingenuity and drive in our diverse communities and companies and I look forward to working with the Administration, Legislature, local officials and members of the non-profit and private sectors across the Commonwealth to grow Massachusetts' nation-leading innovation economy and continue to make progress on important issues like affordable housing and homelessness," Kennealy said in a statement.

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