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Baker appoints public health, agriculture commissioners





The incoming Baker administration on Tuesday named a doctor who has built her career around working with the homeless and other vulnerable populations to take over the Department of Public Health, and tapped a Shrewsbury selectman and son of a nursery owner as commissioner of agriculture. Dr. Monica Bharel, the chief medical officer for the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, will take over for Cheryl Bartlett as commissioner of the Department of Public Health, overseeing a broad array of programs, including the implementation of medical marijuana. Bharel earned her medical degree from Boston University and a graduate degree in public health from Harvard University. “Doctor Bharel has an impressive background as a physician serving the homeless, some of the most vulnerable citizens of the commonwealth,” said Marylou Sudders, the incoming health and human services secretary, in a statement. John Lebeaux, a six-term selectman in Lt. Governor-elect Karyn Polito’s hometown of Shrewsbury and the town administrator in Princeton, will take over the Department of Agriculture to work with local farms. Lebeaux managed his family’s Shrewsbury Nurseries business for 26 years and currently lives on a former portion of his grandfather’s Buttonwood Farm. Lebeaux is the past president of the Massachusetts Nursery and Landscape Association and previously sat on the state’s Board of Food and Agriculture. – M. Murphy/SHNS


[Story Developing] Staking out ground ahead of his expected push to allow more charter schools in Massachusetts, Governor-elect Charlie Baker on Tuesday named a charter proponent and former Pioneer institute official as state education secretary. James Peyser, a former education adviser to past governors, has served as the executive director of Baker’s transition team while on leave from his job as managing director at the nonprofit NewSchools Venture Fund. “I am proud to have Jim join our bipartisan team of experienced professionals,” Baker said in a statement. “I saw firsthand Jim’s experience and leadership improving public education throughout his career and during our time together on the state Board of Education. I look forward to the innovation and devotion Jim will bring to our administration as we work to give our children and their parents a greater voice in their education.” In 1995, Gov. William Weld appointed Peyser undersecretary of education and special assistant to the governor for charter schools. Peyser served as chairman of the state board of education from 1999 to 2005. He was also an education adviser to Acting Gov. Jane Swift and Gov. Mitt Romney. For seven years, he was the executive director of the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research. In his own statement, Peyser said, “I am committed to advancing the Governor-elect’s ambitious priorities by producing more great schools throughout the Commonwealth, expanding and strengthening career-technical education programs, developing new partnerships with local school districts and communities, and making higher education more affordable and responsive to the needs of our diverse regions.” – Gintautas Dumcius/SHNS


The more than 150-year-old time capsule removed from underneath the cornerstone of the State House earlier this month will be opened on Jan. 6 at the Museum of Fine Arts, according to Patrick administration officials. The small box was chiseled over a seven-hour period from the bottom of the massive granite cornerstone that had been removed by construction crews doing work to identify the source of water leakage into the State House. Records indicate the brass box, weighing 10 pounds, was last unearthed during emergency repairs to the State House in 1855 and put back in place when the cornerstone was reset. Originally buried in 1795 by Gov. Samuel Adams, Paul Revere and William Scollay, the capsule is believed to contain a collection of coins that date between 1652 and 1855, an engraved silver plate, newspapers, a seal of the Commonwealth, cards, and a title page from the Massachusetts Colony Records, according to a list found from 1855. X-rays taken by museum preservationists show a stack of coins and papers in the box. “They can see the coins, they can see the paper. What’s in the x-ray is pretty consistent with what’s in the list from 1855 detailed, so we’re pretty confident,” said Meghan Kelly, spokeswoman for the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance. Kelly said she believes the box, or an updated container, will be reburied sometime in the late spring or early summer, and new artifacts from the present day could be added. The capsule, which weighs ten pounds, will be opened at 6 p.m. on Jan. 6. – Matt Murphy/SHNS

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