In the love-hate relationship between East Boston and Massport, the Port Authority s community relations department has been the whipping boy and has long borne the brunt of community angst and distrust.
In 1987, Massport s Tom Butler emerged as a likeable fixture at community meeting with the uncanny ability to disarm a crowd gathered for a controversial issue with a joke and a smile.
Sadly, Butler died from complications of leukemia in March 2011. He was 59.
For two years Butler s high profile position remained vacant and many wondered if anyone could replace the man that fiercely believed that economic growth fueled by Logan International Airport needed to be tempered with compassion for residents of communities most impacted by Massport operations.
Could Jose JosÈ C. MassÛ III be that person?
Last week, Massport announced they hired MassÛ as the Port Authority s new Director of Community Relations.
I am delighted to announce the hiring of JosÈ MassÛ, said Massport CEO Thomas Glynn. Having a skilled and strategic person as
Director of Community Relations is critical to the success of Massport and our responsibility to be a good neighbor.
According to Massport, MassÛ has a long, impressive career in government, community affairs, communications and consulting and will be responsible for directing the development and implementation of programs designed to lessen the impact Massport facilities has on its neighbors.
The 62-year-old MassÛ lives in Boston and began his public service career in 1983 in the Governor s Office of Community Services and has held key posts at the MBTA, Northeastern University, and the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration. He has had a successful career in broadcasting and was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2010. He is fluent in Spanish and skilled in cross-cultural communications.
Massport is fortunate to have someone of MassÛ s caliber heading community relations, said Thomas J. Keady, Jr., who worked with MassÛ at Northeastern University. He has a great understanding of Boston and its neighborhoods and has a great attitude about helping people. He likes to get to yes and in community affairs, it is all about getting to yes.
With the community relations department as the first point of contact for the Port Authority with Community groups and residential concerns, one has to have a relatively thick skin to take on the activists in Eastie.
Butler, Masso s predecessor, artfully navigated the tough undercurrents of Eastie s long heated battles with Massport.
At meetings, after sometimes being lambasted over something Massport had recently done that the neighborhood perceived as unfair, Butler would take all the name calling and shouting and then with that trademark twinkle in his eye and boyish grin he would step forward and say something like, Funny, my wife called me that last night .
The crowd would usually erupt in laughter and with this ability to disarm a volatile crowd; Butler s good nature would allow Massport and the community to get down to business on a compromise that usually favored both parties.
While Masso s approach may be different, the community will just have to wait and see by what measure.