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MassDevelopmentā€™s new chief needs no introduction

July 24, 2017 : The Boston Globe, by Jon Chesto

Jay Ash never forgot the first time he met Lauren Liss, then a sympathetic soul at the state Department of Environmental Protection.

He was the Chelsea city manager at the time and was leery of the DEP — until he met Liss.

She was the agency’s commissioner, and Ash, who later served as Governor Charlie Baker’s economic development secretary, said he was pleasantly surprised by her responsiveness during their first meeting. He returned to Chelsea singing her praises to his deputy at the time, Kim Driscoll, now the mayor of Salem.

Now, more than a decade later, Ash, who currently chairs the MassDevelopment board — will be able to work with her more closely. The board voted last week to approve Liss as its new chief.

She’ll leave her job as a partner at the law firm of Rubin and Rudman and will start at MassDevelopment on Sept. 5.

Liss replaces Marty Jones, who was appointed under Governor Deval Patrick in 2011. The board decided not to renew Jones’s contract, and she left at the end of June.

A MassDevelopment spokesman says Liss is still negotiating the terms of her contract; Jones made $235,000 a year.

As chief executive of MassDevelopment, the quasi-public economic development agency, Liss will oversee a staff of about 180 employees, including about 70 who work at Devens, the former military base that is now largely an office and industrial park overseen by the agency.

Liss, who was DEP commissioner from 1999 to 2003, says she doesn’t expect to make any big changes. She says she is impressed by the foundation built by her predecessors in the top job at MassDevelopment — Jones and Mike Hogan, now chief executive of A.D. Makepeace.

“I feel extremely fortunate to be coming to an agency with such a strong history and a proven track record of promoting economic growth in the commonwealth,” Liss says.

“The opportunity to be in the public sector again, to return to public service, and this agency in particular, is just tremendous.”