Stanley Rosenberg of Amherst becomes dean of the Senate
Sen. Stan Rosenberg, left, presents Gov. Deval Patrick with a walking stick Saturd Purchase photo reprints »
Sen. Stan Rosenberg speaks at an event billed by MassDevelopoment as "Milestones at Village Hill Northampton" on the grounds of the former Northampton State Hospital Friday. Purchase photo reprints »
BOSTON — Twenty-one years ago, during the first Senate session of 1992, Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg was sworn in as a novice senator from Amherst.
Last week, Rosenberg again headed to the Statehouse for the swearing-in ceremony, but this time he was granted a new title as part of the ceremony — dean of the Senate. The honorary title is bestowed on the longest continually serving state senator.
“It means I’m old,” Rosenberg said with a laugh via telephone from his Boston office Jan. 2.
Although he jokingly acknowledged that the designation does not mean a raise or a better parking space, the 63-year-old Amherst resident said it did make him reflect on his more than two decades in the Senate.
“It’s hard to believe I’ve been here as long as I’ve been here. Life moves very quickly in the Legislature,” he said. “You’re on the go all the time, you completely lose track of the time, and then one day, 22 years later, you wake up and realize you’re the longest-serving senator. It’s a sobering moment.”
Rosenberg takes over the title from former Sen. Frederick Berry, D-Peabody, who served from 1983 to 2012.
Sen. Gale D. Candaras, D-Wilbraham, said in a statement that she was “thrilled” that a western Massachusetts legislator is the Senate’s new dean.
“The trust and respect that we, as colleagues, have for Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg is inestimable and speaks not only to his tenure, but to his intellect and acumen as well,” she said.
Dean of the Senate is more than just an honorary title; in his first day as dean, Jan. 3, Rosenberg was tasked with conducting the beginning of the first Senate session until Senate President Therese Murray was re-elected.
“I’ve attended the first session 11 times, but it was quite different,” he said. “You have control.”
This is the second title Rosenberg has earned in the Senate. In 2003, he was the first senator to be named president pro tempore of the Senate.
He served as the state representative for the Amherst area from 1986 until winning election to the state Senate in September 1991. Serving on two redistricting committees and as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee were highlights of his Senate career, he said.
“For a policy wonk like me, it was an extraordinary experience,” he said of the Ways and Means Committee role. “It was learning every part of the state budget.”
Rosenberg, who is openly gay, said his work on same-sex marriage was also a source of pride.
“The state broke new ground on the legalization of same-sex marriage, and it turned out to be a trendsetter for other states,” he said. “Just going through that 3½ years of constitutional conventions debating every part of the issue would be a highlight of any political career because it was a big social change.”
Rosenberg said it is common for junior legislators to seek advice and guidance from more experienced senators like himself.
“As president pro tempore, that was the case, and as dean, I think it will continue to be the case,” he said. “I’ve been around the track on most issues once or twice.”
Among the issues he is looking forward to tackling in the new year are public safety, including the issue of sexual predators and, in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, gun control.
Senate President Murray named transportation as an issue the Senate will take up as it faces a deficit in the coming years. “As the chair of the Regional Transportation Authority Caucus, I’m interested in seeing that happen and playing a role in it,” Rosenberg said.
He also echoed Murray’s statement that the Legislature would review and possibly revise the state’s welfare system. “The system was trendsetting in the 1990s, but those policies are 20 years old now,” he said.
Rosenberg said his predecessor as dean, former Senator Berry, left big shoes to fill.
“He is a most unusual person,” he said. “He has muscular dystrophy, he was born with this physical challenge and lived his entire life with it, and yet never shirked a duty or shrunk from any challenge.”
Rebecca Everett can be reached at email@example.com.