Former Gov. Cellucci was a significant figure in CPA history

June 26, 2013: Former Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci, who died earlier this month after battling Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) for six years, will always be remembered as the man who signed the Community Preservation Act (CPA).

Cellucci took office as the sixty-ninth Massachusetts governor in 1997, a position he held until 2001. During his tenure, Cellucci worked actively on CPA as part of his administration.  Bob Durand, appointed Secretary of the Environment by Cellucci, said the former governor “immediately saw the value of the Community Preservation Act.” Although Cellucci vetoed the Act in 2000 over a particular registry fee, he quickly signed a revised version into law.

Durand, who was also a key player in the passage of CPA, said Cellucci’s interest in CPA largely stemmed from his upbringing in central Massachusetts where he witnessed firsthand the development, conservation, and historic preservation challenges that a small town faces. "Paul always looked at these issues with a lens of how it would affect a small town in Massachusetts, like Hudson, where he grew up,” Durand said, “Paul saw that CPA was a way to address all three.”

While historically Cellucci was an anti-tax governor, Durand said he was also “a big supporter of democracy” and valued the opportunity that CPA gave people to go to the polls and lead legislative efforts locally. Known as a moderate Republican in a predominantly Democratic state, Cellucci was described as having a strong bipartisan spirit which contributed to his undefeated election record.

Cellucci’s wife, Jan was also an avid supporter of historic restoration. Durand described her as “the force behind the scenes working with the governor to pass the Act.”

“Both of them saw CPA as a rare piece of legislation that addressed needs historically unmet, especially in small towns,” where Durand added that at the time, issues associated with increased sprawl and gentrification in communities were gaining more and more attention.

During his life, Cellucci saw over a billion dollars raised under CPA to preserve open space, restore and protect historic structures, and secure housing for lower income families in towns across the state.

After his ALS diagnosis, Cellucci devoted much of his time and energy to raising funds to support research into a cure for the disease. To this end, Cellucci created the UMass ALS Champion Fund in partnership with former Gov. William Weld, UMass Medical School Chancellor Michael Collins, and Dr. Robert Brown.

In addition to CPA, Cellucci’s gubernatorial legacy includes the passage of a ballot initiative to reduce the state income tax, the implementation of stricter gun control measures, and the leveraging of Justice Margaret Marshall to become the first female chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court. He was also considered a champion of public education and workers compensation reforms.

Treasurer Steven Grossman said, "In both his political career and his extraordinary battle with ALS, Paul left it all on the field. His vision was always about the future, and he used his leadership roles to enrich and enhance the lives of his fellow citizens. We have lost a champion."


Related story: Until the end, Cellucci desired to serve the public, The Boston Globe, October 2013


Portions reprinted from a State House News Service report.