The Boston Globe “Honoring a fixture on Beacon Hill” March 10, 2015

By Jon Chesto

Mike Widmer was like the Forrest Gump of Beacon Hill, a constant figure amid all the regime changes under the gold dome, inserting himself into some of the state’s biggest public policy debates over three decades.

So it wasn’t surprising that so many of Boston’s political and business heavy hitters showed up at the JFK library last week to honor the retiring Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation president.

In his speech, Widmer recalled how then-House Speaker Tom Finneran summoned him to a pay phone on a beach in Hawaii to return from vacation and help kill the proposed South Boston “megaplex” in the 1990s.

And then there was the time he tangled with former Partners HealthCare chairman Jack Connors before reaching an agreement on the size of a business penalty when Romneycare was being hashed out in 2006.

Finneran and Connors were just a few of the many luminaries in the 400-person crowd. Public affairs guru Joe Baerlein emceed the event, recalling how he met Widmer as an intern in the Sargent administration.

Other speakers who joined Baerlein on stage included former governor Bill Weld, Governor Charlie Baker, new MTF president Eileen McAnneny, and DentaQuest chief executive Fay Donohue.

The guy who sent the most barbs Widmer’s way was House Speaker Bob DeLeo. He began his speech with a light-hearted jab at Widmer’s six-figure salary.

“No one understood public service like Mike Widmer,” DeLeo said. “[But] he never got paid quite like a public servant.”

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