Metro

adrian walker

Linda Dorcena Forry leaves the Senate, and black Boston loses some political clout

The departure of Linda Dorcena Forry from the state Senate is a substantial loss on Beacon Hill.
Lane Turner/Globe Staff/File
The departure of Linda Dorcena Forry from the state Senate is a substantial loss on Beacon Hill.

It’s safe to say that Linda Dorcena Forry is the only state senator — ever — who is best known for hosting a breakfast.

Her ascent to senator of the First Suffolk District in 2013 made her the emcee of the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast, perhaps the city’s leading symbol of Irish influence. The breakfast had always been hosted by the senator from South Boston, and it had never occurred to anyone — least of all the good old boys from Southie — that South Boston’s state senator might someday be a Haitian-American woman from Dorchester.

Dorcena Forry tackled the assignment with charm and aplomb, downplaying the change she represented even as she embodied it. She invigorated a threadbare tradition, and established herself as a rising political star.

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That political career is on ice, at least for now. This week, Dorcena Forry will give her farewell speech at the State House before moving into a new job as a vice president at Suffolk Construction Co.

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There’s nothing remotely unusual about a state senator moving on. But the departure of the state’s only black state senator feels like a substantial loss at the State House, a building where very few people of color have managed to wield much influence.

“That was something I was thinking about hard,” Dorcena Forry said. “But sometimes life happens and we have to make decisions. This was the time for me.”

Dorcena Forry, 44, is the daughter of Haitian immigrants who settled in Dorchester. She has spent her entire adult life in public service, including eight years as a state representative and the past five years as a senator. She was on everyone’s list as a plausible contender for mayor someday.

But such plans can be upended quickly.

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“If it was another time, when there was going to be an opening, maybe I would think about it differently,” she said. “But I’m excited for this next chapter, I really am.”

It’s not a secret that she harbored hopes of becoming Senate president, were the chamber to move on from its embattled leader, Stanley C. Rosenberg, who is the subject of an ethics investigation. But she didn’t have the votes to win the job. Neither did any other senator jockeying for the job. This week the Senate voted to hand Acting President Harriet Chandler the job for the remainder of the year.

While the drama in the Senate was playing out, Dorcena Forry was approached by Suffolk CEO John Fish for a newly created position. It was a chance to work on issues of diversity that she holds dear, and the far larger paycheck that went with it didn’t hurt. She starts later this month.

She believes there is great opportunity to do good in her new post, in which she will head diversity, inclusion, and community affairs. Suffolk is a huge presence in an industry where small minority-owned firms have fought to become significant players. She believes Suffolk has the capacity and the will to partner with smaller firms, helping them to grow.

She won’t say whether she is done with politics forever. She says she’s staying in Dorchester, where her husband, Bill, runs the indispensable Dorchester Reporter. “I’m a Dorchester girl,” she said with a laugh. “Where am I going?”

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So one of the bright lights of Boston politics is off to pursue a new path. That’s her right, of course, but I have one gripe about it.

I wish she’d stayed for one more St. Patrick’s Day breakfast.

Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at adrian.walker@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Adrian_Walker.