Kellogg Magazine  |  Spring/Summer 2015



The bridge builder



or Charlie Baker ’86, one of the most memorable aspects of Kellogg was collaborating with students from varying backgrounds whose perspectives sometimes differed from his own.

Charlie Baker ’86

Working well with others remains a reality for Baker: He was elected Massachusetts’ governor in November 2014 as a Republican in a deeply Democratic state. His election came on the heels of a business career that included serving as CEO of Harvard Pil-grim Health Care, a nonprofit health benefits organization.

“In government you don’t get to pick the people you have to solve a problem with or identify a solution with,” Baker says. “The message Kellogg sends is this: The days you choose who plays with you in your sandbox are over.”

Bay State voters appear satisfied so far with how he’s handling the task. A Suffolk University poll in April showed him with a 74 percent favorability rating and a 70 percent approval rating, higher than that of any other state’s chief executive. “Even for someone in his honeymoon period, that’s a pretty astonishing approval rating,” Tom Jensen, director of the Raleigh, N.C.-based polling firm Public Policy Polling, told The Boston Globe.

Baker, who had unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Deval Patrick in 2010, won praise for his handling of the blizzards that buried the Boston area last winter. He says he has tried to pick a few key objectives — including tackling a budget shortfall and improving the state’s aging transportation system — without getting distracted.

And in keeping with Kellogg’s emphasis on teamwork, he has picked a diverse group of team members. “If you look at our administration, we have seven cabinet secretaries and a chief of staff, and they are three Republicans, four Democrats and an independent,” he says. “For those keeping score, that’s a pretty iconoclastic perspective.”

"Whether you are in the public sector or the private sector, you have got to be pretty good at understanding teams if you want to be successful"

Baker had served under Massachusetts governors William Weld and Paul Cellucci. But he says adjusting his communication style from his business days has been a challenge.

“There’s a way of talking to a commonwealth that’s different than the people who are your customers and employees and colleagues and suppliers,” he says. “It’s a much bigger universe.”

Baker says he recommends politics to people in the corporate sector interested in public service, but warns that they should get used to being under a microscope. “Everything you say and do is public fodder,” he says.

But for those who thrive on teamwork, which Kellogg advocates, politics can be deeply satisfying. He adds: “I would argue that whether you are in the public sector or the private sector, you have got to be pretty good at understanding teams if you want to be successful.”