Tributes poured out Monday for Frank DePaola, the former state highway chief who briefly served as transportation secretary and took a turn at the helm of the MBTA. DePaola lost his battle with cancer on Saturday, officials confirmed.
Gov. Charlie Baker remembered DePaola after a press conference Monday, telling reporters that he'd "known Frank forever" because DePaola was working on transportation issues while Baker served in the Weld and Cellucci administrations.
"Number one, he was a total straight shooter, he always told you what he thought. Number two, he was a soft-spoken guy who was very committed to the things that he pursued and the work that he did. He wasn't one of those people that you felt like you had to bang your fist to actually get somewhere," the governor said. "And number three, he had a certain sort of center of gravity that he lived his life by and I think the way he handled this cancer issue — which has been sort of emotional fight, quiet fight, of his for the past seven or eight years — is totally emblematic of the kind of person was in the first place."
DePaola's portfolio of state government work included stints overseeing construction for the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, as the MBTA's assistant general manager for design and construction, and as acting state transportation secretary. After MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott resigned in 2015, DePaola was tapped to lead the T as general manager. He retired from that job in 2016 to focus on his health.
"He was a good man, he was a great engineer and he was an exceptional transportation leader," Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said at Monday's T oversight board meeting. The board held a moment of silence in memory of DePaola.
T spokesman Joe Pesaturo also tweeted a tribute to DePaola:
The MWRA weighed in on DePaola's passing as well, posting that the whole agency was thinking Monday about "the legacy of successful projects he left us: Deer Island Treatment Plant, MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel, Norumbega Covered Storage, Carroll Water Treatment Plant and so much more."