Gov.-elect Baker names charter school advocate James Peyser to serve as secretary of education

Associated Press

Republican Gov.-elect Charlie Baker on Tuesday named charter school advocate and former chairman of the state Board of Education James Peyser to serve as his secretary of education and also appointed commissioners of public health and agriculture as he continued to build his new administration.

Baker, a Republican, will be sworn-in to office on Jan. 7.

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Peyser is no stranger to state government after serving in the administrations of former Republican Govs. William Weld and Paul Cellucci, and later as an education adviser to former acting Gov. Jane Swift and former Gov. Mitt Romney.

Peyser was a top charter school proponent while serving as executive director of the Pioneer Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank. He's currently on leave from the nonprofit NewSchools Venture Fund.

"I saw firsthand Jim's experience and leadership improving public education throughout his career and during our time together on the state Board of Education," Baker said in a statement. "I look forward to the innovation and devotion Jim will bring to our administration as we work to give our children and their parents a greater voice in their education."

Peyser said his goals include strengthening career and technical education programs and making higher education "more affordable and responsive to the needs of our diverse regions."

The governor-elect appointed Dr. Monica Bharel, chief medical officer for the Boston Health Care for the Homeless program, to serve as commissioner of public health. Baker said Bharel has an impressive background as a physician who has worked with some of the state's most vulnerable citizens.

As head of the state's public health agency, Bharel will help oversee implementation of the state's medical marijuana program, which got off to a bumpy start during the administration of Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick.

Also Tuesday, Baker named John Lebeaux, longtime general manager of his family-owned Shrewsbury Nurseries, to serve as Commissioner of Agricultural Resources.

Lebeaux served six terms as a Shrewsbury selectman and currently is the town administrator in Princeton. His grandfather was the owner of Buttonwood Farm, and Lebeaux and his wife still live on a former portion of the property.