State Sen. Linda Forry, a Haitian American and the first woman of color to represent a district that includes South Boston, Mattapan and Dorchester, will resign from the Senate on Friday to take a position with Suffolk Construction just weeks after emerging as a possible contender for the Senate presidency.
Forry, 44, served in the House for eight years prior to entering the Senate in the spring of 2013 after a closely contested race with Rep. Nick Collins of South Boston.
After succeeding Jack Hart and breaking the South Boston, Irish-American hold on seat, she quickly rose to become assistant majority whip, and has been an outspoken voice for the Haitian community and all communities of color in the Senate.
She has also spoken out repeatedly over the past year against the rhetoric used by President Donald Trump to discuss immigration and immigrants, and has been active in community development issues.
"The foundation of my public service career has revolved around creating opportunity and access and giving a voice to those who have none and this work will continue for the rest of my life," Forry said in a statement.
Forry will join Suffolk Construction, one of the major developers in the city of Boston led by power broker John Fish, as vice president of Northeast region, diversity, inclusion and community relations.
Her resignation will become effective at the close of business on Friday.
Describing her four children and husband, her parents and her 103-year-old grandmother, Forry said, "They have all sacrificed so much to make me who I am; it is now my turn to truly put them first."
In a statement to the Reporter from Washington D.C. on Thursday, Mayor Martin Walsh said of his Lower Mills neighbor: "Senator Forry has been a leader in the Senate, and Dorchester will miss her passion and advocacy for all constituents. I wish her all the best in her new role, where she will continue to impact lives for the better."
Collins, who just this week welcomed his first child, is very interested in running again for the Senate seat, according to someone close to the lawmaker, and Rep. Russell Holmes of Mattapan said he will take the next few weeks to decide whether he will run.
Holmes said Forry's departure from the State House represents the loss of an important voice in the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus and the black community in a district where race relations have been historically fraught.
"Linda is a very big loss for the caucus and our community, no doubt about it," Holmes said.
Forry emerged as one of four Democrats openly vying for support to succeed Sen. Stanley Rosenberg as Senate president last month after Rosenberg's husband, Bryon Hefner, was anonymously accused of sexually assaulting people with business before the Legislature and claiming to hold sway over Senate business.
Rosenberg stepped down to clear the way for an independent investigation into whether he violated any Senate rules in connection to his husband allegedly claiming influence over Senate policy. Forry stepped forward along with three others – Sens. Eileen Donoghue Karen Spilka and Sal DiDomenico – to express their interest in succeeding him should his return become untenable.
Holmes, however, said he was not surprised that Forry decided not to wait as he said it has become clear that the Senate is moving toward allowing Rosenberg to reassume his post, as long as he is cleared of wrongdoing by special investigators. There were also family considerations, Holmes said.
"I was not surprised because of the conversations we were having, and she has to do what's best for her family," he said.
Holmes said he hopes to have a conversation with Collins about the election to succeed Forry in hopes of avoiding some of the racial undertones that he said muddied his contest against Forry.
"I don't want it to become South Boston versus Mattapan and Dorchester and all that brings with it. It should be a race about what's best for the entire community," Holmes said.
Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, who also represents parts of Boston, called Forry a "phenomenal colleague."
"Linda made enormous contributions to our Commonwealth over the last decade, in community development, in housing, in immigration policy, and higher education. And her presence made a real difference for women of color and first-generation Americans – lighting the way for so many of us to run for office and serve our fellow Bay Staters," Chang-Diaz said.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Forry is a "thoughtful, savvy and passionate public servant," and Acting Senate President Harriette Chandler said her departure will leave "an immense gap in our building."
"Linda has been a critical voice in the Massachusetts Senate for those who too often go unheard, and a dedicated leader in creating opportunities for her constituents," Chandler said.
Forry's departure opens up another question beyond who will take her place in the Senate: Who will host the South Boston St. Patrick's Day breakfast this year?
Reporter news editor Jennifer Smith contributed to this report.