Gov. Maura Healey will tap Rep. Jon Santiago of Boston, a major in the U.S. Army Reserve, as the state's next veterans' services secretary, Healey announced Friday morning.
Santiago recently returned from an overseas deployment, and Healey plans to swear him in on March 1, the date that the veterans' secretariat rises to the Cabinet level under a 2022 reform law.
Speculation arose Thursday about Santiago's future in the House after he unusually received no committee assignments for the upcoming term.
In addition to his military service, Santiago is an emergency medicine physician at Boston Medical Center, and his appointment comes during a time of increased scrutiny at the state-run long term care facilities for veterans. The veterans' secretary will be "the ultimate appointing authority of the superintendents" of the two soldiers' homes in Holyoke and Chelsea, according to Healey's office.
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"Representative Santiago has dedicated his life to serving his country -- whether that's volunteering for the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, working in the emergency room throughout COVID, being deployed overseas with the U.S. Army Reserve, or advocating for increased access to housing, public transportation and substance use disorder treatment in the State House," Healey said in a statement Friday. "His public health expertise and military service make him uniquely qualified to serve as Massachusetts' first ever Secretary of Veterans' Services. I'm confident that he will be the leader our veterans need and deserve and will always stand up for their health, safety and wellbeing."
Born in Puerto Rico, Santiago studied biology and religious studies at the University of Texas at Austin, earned a master's in public health at the University of Washington at Seattle, and graduated Yale School of Medicine. He volunteered with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic.
The South End resident was reelected last November to a third term -- after running for Boston mayor in 2021 but dropping out of that race -- and his departure will likely trigger a special election. He first entered the House in 2019 after defeating longtime incumbent Rep. Byron Rushing in a Democratic primary the previous fall.