School Building Authority Director Jack McCarthy ’76
“If you’re driven to help people, [public service] is the spot for you” is MSBA Director Jack McCarthy’s guiding attitude towards his illustrious career. From the inception of our acquaintance, his cordial invitation for his Ward Fellows to call him “Jack” demonstrated his humble connection to the people of Massachusetts. Inspired by public officials since his childhood, Jack envisioned himself as an elected official with the mission to create an impact in his community. He established his education through Boston Latin School and Boston College, eventually getting a Juris Doctor degree from Suffolk Law School and becoming elected as Moderator of the Town of Norwood. Jack became experienced with the intricacies of problem-solving and building contracting, the skills which he used to tackle one of the greatest challenges in his career – building a system to link 351 municipalities together as a Secretary of the State to allow the Motor Voter law to function in an age where computer technology was scarce. Having worked in the private sector, Jack realized that he valued the consequences of his actions and its impact on the people more than monetary gain. Although he was getting paid more at his former job, the impact he would have on the Boston community working in the MSBA nowadays is comparatively invaluable. One of Jack’s major accomplishments at the MSBA is reducing the $10.1 billion of debt that his department had to reimburse to a mere $200 million. By auditing many projects and taking advantage of the moratorium given to his organization, he was able to satisfy monetary demands every year using the smart fund.
The numerous accomplishments in Jack’s career result from his extraordinary commitment to the Commonwealth’s mission of benefitting the people. Jack’s involvement with the construction of the East Somerville Community School was his first experience in the MSBA directly impacting a community with his work. The school became a center point of the community in addition to serving its purpose as a hub of education; the entire neighborhood began using it much more than its intended operating hours for miscellaneous, community based events. This experience of benefitting many people is what he considers “priceless” even after 8 years of serving as a director. Another prime example of the fulfillment he derives from his career is his experience in equipping a school with a ramp to benefit movement-impaired kids. To this day, he still remembers a kid named Matt Brown thanking him for the fact that “now, [he] can go through the main door like all the other kids”. Whenever there would be obstacles and challenges in a workday at the MSBA, Jack’s resolve would be restored by the recollection of this memory.
Another cause of Jack’s dedication to public service stems from his work environment. He explained that everyone who works at the MSBA prospers and lives in the “vision and mission” of the organization. The workplace is very collegial: everyone wants each other to succeed for the greater benefit of the organization and the public. According to Jack, he has never worked in a place such as this, where people strive so much to improve the end product instead of improving their own reputation. The number of people who work in the MSBA because they truly believe the mission of the organization amazes him.
Among the various experiences in his life, one main theme remains: “Never do anything just for the money. You gotta be happy in what you do”. When he was asked to define public service, Jack said that it all came down to the question of “how do I help people?” This question, which served as his guiding light throughout his career, led him to hope that more people will direct their focus onto serving the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, instead of serving individual interests, which is an important moral in the fight against corruption. For those passionate about serving the public today, he advises showing respect for one another despite differences, especially in this time of division in the country. However, there are also certain topics, such as racism and abuse of human rights, that cannot be tolerated.
Perhaps most importantly of all is Jack’s six-word key takeaway from all his years of public service: “One person can make a difference”.