Aide to six governors, Terry Dolan says farewell to Corner Office

Terry Dolan, who retired from her job in the governor's office last week, was the guest of honor at a State House party on Feb. 1. Governor Deval Patrick was on hand to congratulate Dolan. Photo courtesy Gov. Patrick's office.

After serving six governors, filing away countless important documents, and attending softball games to cheer on the executive branch's team in the rain and on her birthday, Theresa "Terry" Dolan is leaving the Corner Office.

Dolan, a Lower Mills resident since 1991 who turns 60 in a few months, was feted at a bipartisan private party in the State House last week as a "grand dame" and den mother under the golden dome.

Attorney Dan Winslow, former Gov. Mitt Romney's top lawyer, compared Dolan to "Radar O'Reilly," in a reference to the character from the "M*A*S*H" television show who kept the Army medical unit running smoothly.

She could swivel in her chair and "give you exactly what you were looking for before you knew what you were looking for," he said, adding she was a "true public servant who did the job well regardless of party and ideology. The job of governor just got harder."

Gov. Deval Patrick, addressing the crowd of over a hundred people in the Great Hall, said the staff will be "struggling with the day after" Dolan leaves, adding that she plans to give them an additional several weeks.

That will give enough time for the gift to arrive: a locally-made chair with the Massachusetts seal on it. "We hope you will use it to relax a little," Patrick told Dolan after showing her a picture of the chair, as her proud family members, including her father Joe, looked on.

Patrick also issued a proclamation declaring Jan. 31 as her day.

After 25 years working in the State House, "I still get a kick out of walking into this building," she said.

Dolan was brought on by Gov. Michael Dukakis in the 1980s. She was job-hunting during Dukakis's second campaign after having finished her master's degree in business administration and wandered into a campaign office.

"I'd never been political," she said, but after a few weeks, she was hooked. She interned in the press office and when Dukakis won, she worked for a year at the state Department of Public Health, given her background at Massachusetts General Hospital. She returned to the State House in 1985.

"I do nuts and bolts," she said, pointing to the payroll as an example.

When Gov. William Weld's administration came in, they asked her to stay for 90 days for the transition, but that soon turned into six months. That turned into another four administrations, evidenced by photos that were laid out on the tables in the Great Hall of Dolan smiling with previous governors, including Paul Cellucci, Jane Swift and Romney.

One black-and-white photo of her and Weld bears an inscription from the state's first Republican since 1975, saying, "To Terry Dolan, who keeps this place together!"

"She is going to be very missed by us," said Patrick senior appointments director Lily Mendez-Morgan

Dolan said she plans to take a month to "decompress a little," and do some traveling, possibly to Las Vegas.

Someone told her sixty is the new twenty, she recalled. "It's certainly the new 40," she said.

Dolan grew up in Milton, moving into Dorchester's Lower Mills neighborhood in 1991, drawn by the "mini-renaissance" some of the buildings were undergoing, including the local chocolate factory.

Asked which governor is her favorite, Dolan said, "In my mind, it's a little bit like dating. You never forget your first."

But, she adds, "I've enjoyed working for every single one."

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