Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, in his latest effort to reshape his administration, has informed all commissioners and agency leaders appointed by his Republican predecessors that they must reapply for their jobs and will be notified by June 1 if they can remain in their positions.
The letter, sent to about 50 GOP holdovers late last week, addresses one of the central concerns of key state Democrats, who have argued that the new governor has not acted decisively enough to put his imprint on an executive branch ruled by Republicans for the last 16 years.
"The governor has asked each secretariat to build a team that shares this administration's priorities and visions," said Patrick spokesman Kyle Sullivan. "The letter is part of a process that is ongoing since the administration took office and that we expect to be concluded by the end of the month."
An administration source said that Patrick would probably reappoint a handful of the commissioners and department heads, but that most will be asked to leave.
Among those notified was Harry Spence, commissioner of the Department of Social Services, who has faced criticism for the death of children in DSS care, including four-year-old Rebecca Riley, and for the case of Haleigh Poutre, who was beaten into a coma in 2005. The agency was accused of trying to prematurely remove the 11-year-old from life support.
Since suffering a series of embarrassing gaffes in his first two months in office, Patrick has made several personnel announcements, aimed at surrounding himself with a more seasoned inner circle and getting his administration on a new track.
Just three months into his tenure, he replaced his chief of staff, a political novice, with Doug Rubin, who helped devise Patrick's come-from-behind victory last year.
Soon after taking over, Rubin gathered about 15 long-time Democrats to help Patrick promote his agenda and navigate the labyrinth of internal politics on Beacon Hill. The strategists agreed that the administration must quickly focus on removing the vestiges of 16 years of Republican rule and replace those managers with Patrick loyalists, according to several people who attended.