Candidate Profiles: Governor’s Council District 3, Election News

Candidate Profiles: Marilyn Petitto Devaney for Massachusetts Governor’s Council 3rd District

As part of our Election 2022 coverage we asked both candidates vying to be the Democratic nominee for the Massachusetts Governor’s Council 3rd District, which includes Burlington, to answer a set of questions for Candidate Profiles. The two candidates are incumbent Marilyn Petitto Devaney (D-Watertown) and challenger Mara Dolan (D-Concord).

If you are unfamiliar with the Governor’s Council you can read a primer we put together here.

Here are Marilyn Petitto Devaney’s responses:

1. Please start by just telling us a little about yourself – relevant work/education experience, why you’re interested in government work, family life, etc.

My name is Marilyn M. Petitto Devaney, my late husband was a US Marine and a firefighter. He was ‘the wind beneath my wings’. I have four children and three grandchildren. My children are my life!

I am the daughter of Immigrant parents – (who came here at different times as children.) They lived through much prejudice but were the most patriotic people I ever knew.

As a child, I never thought about whether I was rich or poor- we didn’t have a car- but looking back now- I never even thought about it. I was the youngest of four girls. I was born after my parents lost their only son who had drowned.

I am a lifelong resident of Watertown. I always enjoyed helping people – I got it from my mom.

When Watertown was a town- I was the youngest town meeting member at that time. When Watertown became a city – I was elected councilor-at-large for over twenty years.

I have been a registered Democrat my entire life and never missed voting in any election.

One of the initiatives I introduced was an ordnance benefitting people – Home exemptions. If the home is home owner occupied – the homeowner can get $2000 or more off of their real estate taxes- I put exemptions for people who are blind- disabled- widowed -over 7-certain veterans etc

My husband Jack always supported me- We didn’t have the money – He got a loan for me to go off to college with 4 children- a full time Freshman student! I received an ABA from Middlesex Community College- BS from Suffolk University and attended nights three years -received my master’s degree from Boston state College.

2. What is your inspiration for seeking another term on the Governor’s Council?

My inspiration to first run for Governor’s council was because of a judge and what happened to my friend.

My friend was in a dangerous relationship. Her boyfriend was physically abusive. She had a restraining order, but it was of no use.

She had gone to court seven times seeking help. The eighth time we had a police officer friend accompany her. He told the judge that my friend feared for her life – to give the boyfriend a $200,000 bail. The judge gave him $200 and my friend paid out of fear.

The judge confronted my friend- He told her she has been wasting his time and the courts time. My friend was dead two weeks later. Her boyfriend murdered her. I didn’t know how judges got their jobs. I found out. I learned about the governor’s council and the duties.

I knew I could do it- and there never would be a cruel judge ever on my watch.

My inspiration to continue my work on the council has always been the same – to be the voice of the people who have no voice. I am always mindful that the people I vote for affect you or someone in your family. I am the only full-time councilor-

I am not a lawyer so I am independent of the people who we vote on- We are not under the conflict of interest so council lawyers can vote for colleagues.

NOTE: There is a law that allows lawyers who are elected Governor’s Councillors to appear before the judges they voted on. Governor’s Council has six members who are defense lawyers out of 8 councillors.

3. Why do you feel you are the best candidate and should be re-elected?

I have a proven record of accomplishments – not promises

I made a pledge to make positive changes on the Governor’s Council and I fulfilled that pledge.

  • Established the very first official governor’s council website showing the 8 councilors and their districts
  • The commissions, boards we vote on – the judges – clerk magistrates
  • The governor’s recent nominees and the date of their public hearings.
  • I investigated and found there were all prosecutors on the parole board. It was not in compliance for 30  years. I worked to change it
  • On the governors’ council questionnaire, the nominee has to list all political donations he/she and partner have given in the past 3 years. The names of all the councilors I was sitting with continually appeared.
  • I had the governor put it in his executive order- a judicial nominee is prohibited from giving monies to governor or lt governor.  Governor’s Councillors when applying.



The legislators had closed the statehouse for 2 years during the pandemic. During this time, a staffer in the governor’s office was streaming out our hearings to the public on Youtube. – I got public access finally – After 23 years.


When the legislators reopened the statehouse 7 councilors voted ON THE PHONE and closed down public access (without my knowledge)

The Council needs to be under the open meeting law- should be prohibited to be voting on the phone or doing any council business outside the state house.

I worked nearly 2 months to restore public access – with support from ACLU, Common Cause, Masspirg, Disabilities Centers, League of women voters’ and others – So grateful!

I could not have done it alone.

I had previously made a motion in public assembly to reopen the public access- no councilor gave me a “second”- so I could not even talk on it.

In my twenty-three years I have met with every nominee -members of the parole board, industrial accident board, Appellate tax board-judges clerk magistrates- we have no staff.

The only time I missed a public hearing was when my husband died in January 2001. I attend from beginning to end.

I recently visited inmates at Bridgewater and Norfolk prisons who were scheduled to have commutation hearings before the council in the state house. What a travesty of justice. Both black men – at their trials 30 years ago – not one person of color on their jury.,

I go to drug courts, drug graduations, parole board hearings and more.

I do not accept travel expenses – WHY? Because the people I represent do not get paid to drive to work.!

If was a lawyer, I would have no time to do these things that help me to be a better councillor.

4. What would you say are some areas of strengths you bring to the work of the council?

I meet with every nominee ( 3-4 hours) When I go to his hearing and then vote – I know I haven’t left a stone unturned. I share information.

I have the experience of 23 years – I know what is needed to be a good judge in the courtroom to a good judge on the industrial accident board. Compassion is a necessary attribute in all positions – for the disabled worker looking to put food on the table for his family going before an Industrial Accident Board judge – to the parole board members to believe in second chances.

My strength is that I have no bias. I have compassion and expect it in the nominees, I am a strong advocate to stop the racial disparity in the court with judges. I talk publicly about it. I also ask for more diversity in the courts. I am proud of the people I have voted for – recently the first Korean (woman) appointed to the superior court – Two outstanding women of Indian descent – on the district court and superior court.

My strength is the time I put into serving. It is not a ‘second job’ for me. My strength is to do what is right – and not “go along”

MY strength is meeting with every nominee in 23 years -Parole Board members, Industrial Accident Board members, Appellate Tax Board members – Judges – Clerk Magistrates – visit prisons etc.

I have learned that it is not always popular to do the right thing.

I am experiencing that now with councillors – for reopening the public access. I will always continue to do the right thing.

I am strongly interested in Juvenile court – I will only vote a for a nominee who has spent their legal practice dedicated to juvenile cases.

Before being elected years ago – through the court, I volunteered as Counselor for juveniles on probation.

This was the best learning experience I ever had. I met one-on-one. I learned the other sad side of a juvenile’s life. -i.e.- A teenage girl whose mother was a prostitute and didn’t know who her father was. She was locked in her room while her mother went out.

The MOST REWARDING – the Commission on Disabilities

I served 22 years on the commission. I served with the most remarkable people who had disabilities.

It was such a pleasure to serve with these great people – and to learn from them. We did a lot of good things. I was honored to receive a plaque for dedication and contributions for people with disabilities.

5. Gov. Baker is not seeking reelection so the state will have a new governor. How do you think the council can best help with a successful transition and getting the new governor on a solid footing?

The council does not have a lot of interaction with the governor as people may think. I have had respect for the governors I served with and believe they respected me. As a governor’s councillor, it is not my position to put a governor on ‘solid footing”. The governor does not meet with councillors on a regular schedule.

For example, I have asked for pardons and commutations for years and have only had a few. The council does not have as much clout as people think

The process is – The Judicial Nominating Commission (21 lawyers appointed by the governor) decide to reject an applicant or interview and then recommends a nominee to the governor. Governor presents a nominee in a letter to the council- the council schedules a hearing- the next week at public assembly with the lt. governor – the council votes on the nominees who had a hearing.

I have found it productive to express my opinions, suggestions and requests meeting with the Chief Counsel for the governor who is more accessible than the present governor.

I believe the best transition is to show respect to the new governor and demonstrate a willingness to work together.