Jane Maria Swift (born February 24, 1965) is the former Governor of Massachusetts. A Republican, she was the only woman to ever hold that position, serving from 2001 to 2003. At the time she became governor, she was the youngest person in the country to hold the position. Previously she was Lieutenant Governor. In 1990, at the age of 25, she became the youngest woman ever elected to the Massachusetts Senate.
Descended from an Irish-Italian political family in Berkshire County, Massachusetts in the city of North Adams, she learned politics from her father who was active in the Republican party in town, county, and state government. She graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut with a degree in American studies and political science in 1987, where she was a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. She currently resides in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Swift was elected Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts in 1998 and became Acting Governor in 2001 when Governor Argeo Paul Cellucci resigned to became the United States Ambassador to Canada. She was the first governor from western Massachusetts for a century. This was immediately seen as a threat to the Boston-based political power structure. Governor Swift was the first sitting Governor in United States history to give birth when her twin daughters were born one month into her term of office. She continued to exercise executive authority during her maternity leave, including chairing a meeting of the Massachusetts Governor's Council by teleconference from her hospital bed.
Swift's tenure as governor was largely dominated by responding to the attacks of September 11, 2001, and managing the fiscal crisis that followed in Massachusetts. Swift insisted that polls remain open for a special congressional election scheduled for that day, and led a comprehensive, statewide response to prevent terrorism. In addition, Swift led 45 fellow governors in urging Congress to create the Department of Homeland Security. The Boston Herald summarized her response to the crisis as, “Gov. Jane Swift has had her finest hour during this crisis…she has been steady, stable, calming, decisive.”
Faced with a widening budget deficit as a result of the terrorist attacks, Swift cut nearly $300 million in programs and vetoed nearly $600 million in proposed spending. She received high praise for her response to the budget crisis without resulting to massive tax increases. Her popularity diminished, however, due in part to the resistance to defunding of some of her detractor’s pet programs.
As the first woman to govern Massachusetts, and the first governor of any state to give birth in office, she was constantly attacked by political foes as ill-suited for the job. National television reporters would ask her about breast-feeding in the governor’s office, and she faced criticism from the media for the use of a state helicopter and for two aides volunteering to babysit her daughter. The Boston Globe reported, "The Ethics Commission looked closely and concluded that Swift did not use her official office to secure 'unwarranted privileges' of any kind,” although there was "the appearance of impropriety ..." which was considered a very minor infraction. On 20 February 2002, she infuriated justice activists (including influential Wall Street Journal reporter Dorothy Rabinowitz) by rejecting a recommendation by the Board of Pardons to commute the sentence of Fells Acres defendant Gerald Amirault, the last of his family still held in the 1980s Day care sex abuse hysteria. Protests intensified Republican interest in drafting Mitt Romney as their 2002 gubernatorial candidate. With dismal poll readings, Jane Swift conceded the nomination to Romney on 19 March 2002.
In spite of the need to slash government spending, Swift maintained a priority on education and health issues. As a result, educational indicators in Massachusetts increased significantly during her term in office. Per State Police policy regarding the security for Massachusetts governors and lieutenant governors, Swift was driven by a security detail while on official business. As a busy working mother, she often noted the time riding in the car allowed her to catch up on reading memos and briefing, as well as return telephone calls as profiled on CBS's 60 Minutes. She declined to run in the 2002 gubernatorial primary making way for Mitt Romney, who went on to win the Republican nomination and the election.
Prior to her tenure as lieutenant governor and governor, Swift served as a state senator, an executive with the Massachusetts Port Authority, and as the commonwealth's consumer affairs secretary. As a member of the Massachusetts State Senate, Swift was active in education reform issues and was instrumental in the passage of the Education Reform Act of 1993.As the Director of Regional Airport Development for the port authority, Swift was responsible for coordinating all the regional airports in New England to mitigate flight delays into and out of Boston's Logan Airport.
Swift was considered to be a “policy wonk,” and one of the smartest people at the state capitol. Then Governor William Weld’s chief of staff said, “She was among the best, if not the best of senators.” It was in this capacity that she developed her political themes of increased accountability, down-sizing government, reducing taxes, and reforming education and social services. As a result, Swift gained a reputation for demanding responsiveness in public programs and championing the need for workers to balance work and family demands.
She is considered a “power player” within the Republican Party. She has served as a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Her official portrait was unveiled in the Massachusetts State House in 2005.
Governor Swift is a principal with the consulting firm of WPN Consulting, LLC , providing expertise in education services, equity and investments, strategic consultation, and professional presentations. She is a frequent lecturer on leadership and the role of women in public service.
In 2003 she was honored with the Woman’s Professional Achievement Award by Harvard College for being a role model balancing the demands of public service and motherhood. In her acceptance, she quoted Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe, "(If) success and progress for women means not having children, then that is no progress at all.
After leaving office, Swift returned to Western Massachusetts. She and her husband own and operate a horse farm and riding school in Williamstown, Massachusetts with their three daughters. She maintains the strong focus on her family that she exhibited during her tenure as governor, even willing to sacrifice political opportunities to meet family needs.
On April 21, 2008, Swift ran the Boston Marathon and was included in a special marathon edition of Runner's World. Swift's marathon run raised about $15,000 for Children's Hospital Boston. Since leaving the governor's office, her annual Children's Hospital fundraiser has raised about $100,000 for medical research.
Swift has appeared on numerous news and political commentary shows, providing point/counter-point discussion on the campaign. On September 14, 2008 in an appearance on the CBS News program Face the Nation, was particularly contentious when Swift debated U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a supporter of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.
Profile: Jane Swift, who is likely to become the next governor of Massachusetts and will be the nation's youngest governor
Feb 16, 2001; 00-00-0000 Profile: Jane Swift, who is likely to become the next governor of Massachusetts and will be the nation's youngest...