By Alan Burke
---- — BOSTON — Joan Lovely stood at the left hand of Gov. Deval Patrick to be sworn in as the new senator from the 2nd Essex District yesterday in the ornate Senate chamber.
Prior to the ceremony, a nervous Lovely recalled the thousands of doors she knocked on in order to have this one open up for her.
“I’m just absolutely thrilled,” she said.
And when someone asked, “Butterflies gone yet?” she replied, “No, they’ve got worse.”
She didn’t show it as Lovely confidently — and temporarily — sat in the seat adjacent to the president’s podium, one previously reserved for her predecessor, retired Majority Leader Fred Berry. She becomes the first person other than Berry to hold the post in 30 years.
Cheers followed the oath-taking, and Lovely offered a triumphant “thumbs-up” to her former Salem City Council colleagues, most of whom were in the upstairs gallery. Moments later, she took her first vote, joining colleagues in retaining Senate President Therese Murray as leader of the 188th Massachusetts Senate.
A large contingent of the Lovely family watched from the floor, including husband Stephen; children Jenna, Stephen and Taylor; sisters Jackie Lamb and Susan Douglass; and cousin Deb Greel.
“I’m so incredibly proud of her,” Douglass said, her voice breaking. “I just get filled up with emotion when I think if it. Joan has worked incredibly hard. ... I only wish our parents were here.” Joseph and Joan (Geary) Boeggeman have passed away.
Mayors Bill Scanlon of Beverly, Lovely’s original hometown, and Kim Driscoll of Salem attended, as well.
“(Lovely) does have a difficult task filling Freddy Berry’s shoes,” Scanlon said. “But I think she’s going to do a hell of a good job. We want to see her get off to a good start.”
“It’s very exciting to be here to see Joan sworn in,” said Driscoll, who served with Lovely on the City Council. “I look forward to working with her.”
In a brief interview, Lovely pledged to remain dedicated to her constituents in Salem, Peabody, Beverly and Danvers. She recalled her early career, also on Beacon Hill, as an aide to the late Salem Rep. Mike Ruane. When Ruane stepped down, Lovely challenged current Rep. John Keenan for the seat and lost by a sizable margin.
Seemingly stunned by the defeat, Lovely showed resilience, roaring back, running first for the council and then, in the Senate race, besting two strong opponents, former Peabody Rep. John Slattery and Governor’s Councilor Mary-Ellen Manning, in the key Democratic primary last September.
Lovely is now one of three new senators on Beacon Hill.
The North Shore may have inspired the lightest moments of the session when Republican Sen. Bob Hedlund of Weymouth nominated Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester for Senate president. Tarr also represents Ipswich, Hamilton, Wenham and Boxford.
Praising the “garrulous” Tarr, Hedlund said that from time to time, while listening to him, he slips “into a hallucinogenic trance, and I think I’m back in the 1800s and I’m listening to Daniel Webster.”
With only four members, Hedlund admitted Tarr’s candidacy was a long shot. He referred to the Republican contingent as the “gang of four.”
Predictably, Tarr lost 35-4. He then moved to make Murray’s election unanimous.
“Early exit polls from the chamber,” Tarr joked, “gave me cause for optimism.”
Murray returned the courtesy at a later point by wishing the senator a happy birthday.
Murray also recalled “our good friend and distinguished colleague Fred Berry.”