Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral will join Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration in mid-January, opening up a seat frequently coveted over the years by Boston politicians. Patrick last week introduced the new members of his cabinet, including Cabral as his public safety and homeland security secretary.
“I think this is an unbelievable opportunity to really move public safety forward in the next two years,” Cabral told reporters after a press conference at the State House. “I think there are going to be very solid, very bold initiatives by the governor and things that I personally support.”
Cabral, who has served as sheriff since 2002, said she believes she can do “bigger and bolder things” on a statewide level.
Sentencing reform is a top priority for her, she said.
The current public safety chief, Marybeth Heffernan, is stepping down from the job as Patrick heads into the final two years of his second term. Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby, Education Secretary Paul Reville, and Patrick’s budget chief, Jay Gonzalez, are also departing.
Bigby will be replaced by St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center’s John Polanowicz while Gonzalez will be replaced by Health Insurance Connector executive director Glen Shor. Reville’s successor will be Brockton Schools Superintendent Matthew Malone, who started his career in Dorchester, first working at the Martin Luther King School in Grove Hall and later teaching at Burke High School. He then became the headmaster of Monument High School in South Boston.
He currently serves on the board of trustees for Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy, a pre-K-8 school with campuses in Dorchester and Mattapan.
“I think I’ll always value my relationships with the families of Dorchester,” Malone told the Reporter last week. He said that Reville, who came from an education think tank, is a mentor to him. “I’ve been in the field as a practitioner and in terms of style, we both care about kids and do whatever it takes to increase opportunities for their success.”
Patrick has the power to appoint Sheriff Cabral’s successor, who will serve out her term.
“One thing at a time,” he told reporters when asked about the appointment.
Asked if she has any names to recommend, Cabral said, “I’m going to be talking with the governor about it. … The thing that made me very happy was how focused he is on the good work that has gone on thus far and how important it is to continue that good work. So I think that’s a priority for me and I think it’ll be a priority for him as well.”
Cabral said the timeline for an appointment is “as expeditiously as possible.” She added: “Hopefully, it will be donein relatively short order.”
Suffolk County includes Boston, Chelsea, Winthrop, and Revere. The sheriff, one of fourteen in Massachusetts, is elected every six years and oversees the Suffolk County Jail, the Suffolk County House of Correction, and the Civil Process Division, according to the office’s website.
Asked if she’s looking for her replacement to have a background in law enforcement or corrections, Cabral said, “I’m not going to commit to any particular background at this point. Really, it’s the ability to grasp the job, to do the job well, and have the right priorities for the job. And a vision for where corrections should be for the future. That’s very important.”
Then-acting Gov. Jane Swift, a Republican, tapped Cabral as Suffolk County sheriff ten years ago. Cabral, who registered as a Republican before taking the job, switched parties and ran as a Democrat for the post in 2004 against City Councillor At-Large Stephen Murphy. She won handily and was reelected in 2010.
The rift between her and Murphy is deep – she once quipped in a television interview that “[b]etween the councillor’s brain and his mouth, there is no crossing guard” when the two tangled over a public safety issue – and he is unlikely to be a pick for the job if Cabral has input.
Cabral has worked as a staff attorney for the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, an assistant district attorney in Middlesex County and Suffolk County, and assistant attorney general. She is a Boston College graduate who received her law degree from Suffolk University.
Political observers frequently mention her as a potential candidate for mayor if the current incumbent, Thomas Menino, doesn’t run for another term.
“I don’t know,” she said, when asked if she would consider jumping in. “I haven’t made any decisions about that.”
At hospital, Menino receives visitors from New York Times
“Ailing Mayor of Boston Says He’s Still Up to the Job,” read the headline in Monday’s New York Times. The article, which ran on Page A16, offered the first apparent reference to when Menino might leave the hospital. His physician at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital said the mayor could be home for Christmas after spending weeks largely out of public view, first at Brigham and Women’s and then at Spaulding.
He entered Brigham on Oct. 26, after a trip to Italy, feeling drained. Doctors would eventually discover a litany of issues, from Type 2 diabetes and a blood clot to a compression fracture in his back.
“Being in the hospital set me back a little bit, but it made me do a lot of thinking about where I can move the city over the next couple of years,” he told the newspaper. Menino is up for reelection in 2013 and has not directly said whether he will run for a sixth four-year term.
He sat down with the Times for almost an hour, about 45 minutes more time than he has spent with local media such as the Boston Globe and Herald.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at dotnews.com/litdrop. Material from State House News Service was used in this report. Email us at email@example.com  and follow us on Twitter: @LitDrop and @gintautasd