Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito
Photo/Andy Weigl, Weigl Photography
By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Shrewsbury – As the commonwealth’s lieutenant governor, Karyn Polito is not just a figurehead. Rather, she has been charged by Gov. Charlie Baker with many important leadership tasks. And since the two took office in January 2014, Polito has crisscrossed the state, intent on meeting with local officials to spread the administration’s message of the importance of building a strong bond between municipalities and state government.
Polito, 50, grew up in Shrewsbury and now lives there with her husband Stephan M. Rodolakis and their two young children, Bobby and Judy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in management from Boston College in 1988 and her J.D. from the New England School of Law in 1991. She previously served in various roles in Shrewsbury’s town’s government, including a stint on the Board of Selectmen before serving as commissioner of the Massachusetts State Lottery from 1999-2000. She also served as state representative for the 11th Worcester District from 2001-2011. After losing a close race to Steven Grossman for state treasurer in 2010, she worked in her family’s commercial real estate development firm until winning the November 2014 election with Baker.
One of her primary tasks as lieutenant governor is to chair the Community Compact. In that role she meets with municipal leaders in a quest to help promote transparency, good business practices and form strong partnerships.
“As lieutenant governor, I feel it’s important to show up and meet with local officials,” she added. “Our goal is to build a stronger state by building stronger communities and enhancing opportunities.”
She also chairs the Council on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence and the Massachusetts STEM ((science, technology, engineering and math) Advisory Council and co-chairs the Seaport Economic Council.
Polito is hopeful that when Donald Trump is sworn into office as president of the United States in January, his administration will take the opportunity to strive to bring prosperity to all Americans, no matter what their political affiliation is.
“We live in the greatest country in the world and we must appreciate it and not take it for granted,” Polito said. “Most of us have access to strong and healthy communities, and to education.
“I think of my own upbringing in Shrewsbury. I had a strong family unit to support me, great local schools, a healthy and safe community. We need to magnify that across the country.”
Like Trump, Baker and Polito won 50 percent of the electoral vote. That served as a reminder to the administration, she said, to commit to work as hard as possible for 100 percent of the population, not just those who voted for them.
It’s a sentiment that has informed every part of her career. In fact, she noted, she doesn’t consider herself as a politician but, rather, a public servant. It was a lesson she learned early on in her life.
“Many in my family have served in public service including my grandfather [Robert Lutz], who was one of Shrewsbury’s longest running Town Meeting members. (Lutz was also a former member School Committee member and one of the founders of and a commissioner for the Shrewsbury Electric Light and Cable Company). Other members also served as Town Meeting members,” she said.
“I have always felt an obligation and commitment to give back to my community,” she added.
Her hometown continues to be very special to her. As such, she feels that it’s critical that other young people be able to find opportunities to work and thrive in Massachusetts so that they may, too, have opportunities close to their own hometowns.
“It would break my heart to think that residents of the commonwealth have to move out of the state to find those opportunities elsewhere,” she added.
To that end, it is important, she said, to ensure that state officials work to attract businesses, especially in the important areas of science, technology, engineering and math.
“Technology is changing the way people live their lives. Every one of all ages needs to be open to learning new things and keeping up to speed,” she added. “Just as it’s important for the state to keep moving forward, it’s important for people to do so as well.”
In her personal life, juggling the demands of her own busy schedule with those of two active children is not always easy, she admits, but she tries to be very mindful of allotting time for what’s important.
“I am also fortunate that my parents and brother live nearby and help out,” she noted. “They are very supportive.”
She also looks to her parents as role models for living an active healthy life.
“They have lots of friendships and volunteer for many things,” she added.
And from her mother she learned “not to be afraid to try new things. Don’t shy away from challenges and have a willingness to keep learning.”
The Polito family also recently added a new member – a Portuguese Water Dog puppy, named Quinn in honor of Shrewsbury’s Lake Quinsigamond.
When asked about her future plans, particularly if she sees herself in the governor’s chair at some future date, Polito is adamant that her most important mission is the one she is living right now.
“My philosophy has always been to do a good job with what’s in front of you,” she said. “All through my career, as an attorney, [Board of Selectmen] member, state rep., lieutenant governor – just work hard at what’s in front of me. When you work hard you will make a difference.”
For others, who, like her, are now at a mid-life point, she offers the advice “to never stop learning.
“No matter what your age, whether you are 50, 70 or older, there are always new things to learn and exciting and fulfilling opportunities.”