Ash eyes Life Sciences appointee in July

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JUNE 24, 2015….Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash was authorized Wednesday to name a three-person subcommittee charged with delivering a candidate by next month for the state’s most prominent life science center post.

Susan Windham-Bannister, the founding president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, participated in her last board meeting in May, more than a year after she announced that she planned to resign. Ash, who co-chairs the center’s board, said last month that officials would restart the search for her successor.

Windham-Bannister was paid $285,000 annually, according to state spending records.

A search process was launched for Windham-Bannister’s successor during Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration but never reached a conclusion. Patrick led the push to create the center, which distributes grants and loans to leverage private investments and foster growth in one of the Bay State’s signature industries.

During a meeting on Wednesday, the board authorized the subcommittee’s creation, although members were not named, with the goal of producing a nominee for the permanent post for the board’s consideration at its July meeting, according to a life sciences center official.

A spokesman for Ash declined to say whether the search panel would be limited to the center’s board members or extended to outsiders. Paul McMorrow, the spokesman, said the Baker administration has “got several interesting candidates lined up” for the executive position and declined to name them.

The board also approved Michael Kennealy, assistant secretary for business growth at the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, as interim CEO. Kenneally joined the Baker administration after working in the private equity business at TA Associates and Spectrum Equity.

A Lexington resident, Kenneally spent two years after retiring from Spectrum as a special advisor to the receiver at Lawrence Public Schools.

“There’s a lot of great activity at Mass. Life Sciences,” Kennealy told the News Service, saying he expected his additional duties to last for four to six weeks.

Kennealy said he won’t be a candidate for the permanent post.

McMorrow declined to say whether the work of the previous search process would be used by the new panel.

Last month, center spokesman Angus McQuilken said the prior search included the hiring of search firm Russell Reynolds at a cost of $105,000 to $110,000.

Windham-Bannister said last month that the state is now “on top of the heap” in the biotech industry, but its position is not guaranteed.

“It’s very important and it’s very valuable, and a lot of other states and a lot of other countries want it, and they are investing very rapidly to unseat us so I hope that we’ll stay the course,” Windham-Bannister told the News Service.

The outgoing CEO said her successor would need “credibility” in the industry, including technical knowledge, and she said she is “not concerned” about the center being without a president for now.

“I have confidence in the administration and I have confidence in my team and the board,” Windham-Bannister said. Asked whether she agreed with the decision to restart the search, Windham-Bannister said, “That’s not really for me to say.”

Copyright 2015 State House News Service

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