A visit with Arthur Bernard

Written by Josh Cutler
 | Tuesday, 04 August 2009 21:21

Duxbury resident Arthur Bernard was named chief of staff to Governor Deval Patrick last month. The Clipper sat down with Bernard for a question and answer session in his State House office.

So what does a chief of staff really do?
My responsibility as chief of staff is to make sure that what the governor is trying to achieve by way of policy –– by way of implementing policies –– it’s my job to make sure that’s done. That means interacting with cabinet secretaries and also making sure he has all the information that he needs to make decisions.

Does he call you up at night at home?
Yes, we’ll talk at night sometimes. The thing about the governor’s office which is very different and unique is that there is always something going on. Whether it is the winter time before a snowstorm, whether they are closing state offices for the next day, there is always something going on.

What kind of boss is the governor?
I love working for the governor because he is extremely bright and extremely thoughtful about what it is that he wants to do.  He has a good instinct about issues.

What kind of hours do you put in?
They’re long hours and it’s because things happen all the time. I may be doing a conference call at 8 o’clock or 9 o’clock at night sometimes. … It’s all over the place.

What’s the governor like when he gets mad? Quite frankly, I haven’t seen him get mad. I’d say that sometimes he’ll be struck that certain things can’t happen because of some bureaucratic reason or something like that. He doesn’t get mad, he just sort of wonders why we get stuck in government sometimes, with some of the bureaucratic things that go on. I’ve never seen him mad ­­–– yet.

What’s something you know about the governor that isn’t coming across to the public? I think what’s not really coming across is how hard he is working, and some of the major issues that he’s resolved. One of the things we lose sight of sometimes is that we are in a very, very unusual and difficult economic time, and I think that the public tends not to have as much time to pay attention to what’s going on in the public discourse because they are concerned about what’s going on their own personal issues. Circumstances are such that people worry how they are going to handle their own finances so this stuff, what goes on at the Statehouse, becomes less of a concern.

What is the toughest part of your job? I think the toughest part is to maintain a balance between all the interests that come before us here in the governor’s office, whether it’s from the cabinet or external issues. Everybody has good reasons why we should make a particular decision, but you have to balance against those who may be impacted in a negative way. It’s always hard to make sure you have all the information and are making the right recommendations.

The governor was involved with the recent funding controversy with Zoo New England. Did you play any role in that?  My role was pretty limited, in terms of that.  The appropriate place for Zoo New England to work through the issues was with Secretary Bialecki, the housing and economic development secretary, and basically I just made sure they were connected. He met with them and they reached the resolution that they are at now.

Did you interact with the legislators about the zoo? No, that’s one of those things I think the legislature has some strong feelings about. Our concern was making sure that the management of the zoo was really looking at everything as closely as possible. This is such a difficult economic time with so many things being cut, things that really affect everyday people and their everyday lives. We just wanted to make sure the zoo was doing everything it could in its part to mange its operation well.

Do you have any interaction with Duxbury’s state legislators?
  Senator Hedlund, I know well from my time here. He’s a good guy. I like him a lot.

How did you end up moving to Duxbury? My wife and I were living in Weymouth at the time. We were looking for somewhere to buy. Weymouth, I grew up there. We were looking for something a little more quiet and rural and Duxbury fit the bill. Also planning ahead because my daughter was born in 1994. We were thinking about schools and all that, and Duxbury is a good community and a nice town.

Do you find you have time to take advantage of some of the amenities Duxbury has to offer? We used to when we first moved to town and the kids were little, absolutely. We used to take the kids to the beach all the time. But I’d say, the last several years it hasn’t been the case. Not as much as I would like.

Last fall, Duxbury voted for a Democrat for president for the first time in about 40 years?
Being a Democrat and having lived in Duxbury for a while now would you say it’s a more of blue town or a red town? I think it’s a thoughtful town [laughing].

The issue in Cambridge with Prof. Gates and Sergeant Crowley has gotten a lot of attention lately. As an African American man living here in Duxbury do you ever feel like you’ve ever experienced any type of racial discrimination?  I can’t say that I have in Duxbury, no. I’ve never experienced that here. I mean, have I ever experienced that in my life? Sure. Yeah. …It’s an interesting question. You have to understand me; I was born and raised in Weymouth and when I was there it was not a diverse town, so the situation is not unusual to me. And so I think if people look at me differently, I have an expectation about that. It’s not something that I would think that much about, quite frankly, because it’s something I’ve lived with all my life.

Where do you go to relax or get away?
This past February we were in St. Thomas on vacation, which everybody loved. My wife and I actually were married there, but it was the first time with the kids. We have a great time there. I also have a cousin that lives in Miami and we try to visit him a lot.

Read any good books lately? I haven’t read anything good lately that I can think of, but I can tell you what I want to read. There’s a new book about Satchel Paige that I’d like to read.

You a baseball fan? Definitely.

Do you think the Red Sox should trade those pitching prospects for Roy Halladay?  I’d love them to.

What’s your take on the gubernatorial race and Charlie Baker? Hard to tell, really. For me it’s just way too early to start the next campaign.

Ever want to run for office yourself?

What are your plans down the road? I don’t know. I’ve been very fortunate throughout my whole career to have some really interesting positions. Quite frankly I haven’t really thought that far ahead.