Courier Staff Writer
Five women took a break from their lives to stand up for their former boss: Mitt Romney.
“I know politics can be tough, but ... this summer ... the man they were portraying in the media ... it wasn’t the man we know,” said Cindy Gillespie, a counselor on Mitt Romney’s cabinet during his time as Massachusetts governor. “It’s frustrating. The picture [coming out] just wasn’t true.”
Gillespie called some other former employees — Republicans, independents, Democrats — who all said they’d be happy to share what kind of boss Romney was. Five of those people, all women — “Women for Mitt” — were in Ottumwa on Friday to address supporters. And, they said, to set the record straight about the man they know.
“What we have in common, we all worked for Mitt Romney, and we’ve all moved on to our own jobs and our own lives.”
Renee Fry, former Massachusetts Secretary of Business and Technology, worked her way up to the cabinet-level post.
“I kept getting promoted, my accomplishments were recognized, and [that] showed Mitt believed in me and supported me,” she said.
In fact, the women said, about half his cabinet was composed of high-level women — especially when it came to finance and business.
“I don’t think that most people realize women were at the core of the economic turnaround in Massachusetts,” said Gillespie.
She added that Romney “only” wanted one thing from the people he surrounded himself with: “He wanted people who could walk through walls.”
In other words, she said, people who could accomplish anything he asked of them. He’d work to push obstacles out of their way and support them so they could do what needed to be done, whether it was putting on the Olympics at Salt Lake City or getting a major company to build in Massachusetts.
“He has a head for numbers, but he leads with his heart,” added Ellen Roy Herzfelder, former Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs.
Romney supports his supporters, they said. When Gillespie started working for him in Salt Lake City, the whole team was monstrously busy. Romney was in every day around 5:30 a.m., worked late, then went home to care for a loved one with multiple sclerosis. Then, he’d be back to work at 5:30 a.m.
Early on, Gillespie’s father became ill — and slipped into a coma. She sped off to be with him. Romney called to check on her the first day she’d gone to the hospital.
“I don’t know where he found the time,” she said of the 45-minute conversation.
But he called the next day, too. And the day after that. Every day, she’d get a call from her new boss, who really meant what he said: family matters most.
His Salt Lake City executive assistant, Donna Tillery, said Romney encouraged her to go back to school for a finance degree — while she was working for the Olympic committee. He’d see her working late and send her home to study. She said she wouldn’t have her master’s degree now if it hadn’t been for his support, she said. And because of the way he challenged her on the job, others saw how successful she could be. She’s now the vice president of a finance company.
However, “Women for Obama” was quick to issue a press release with a response from women, some of whom had worked with or served at the same time as Romney.
“At Tuesday night’s debate, Mitt Romney was asked what he would do to help women overcome barriers to earning equal pay at work; he once again was unable to provide any explicit ideas for tackling this still troubling inequality,” Shannon O’Brien, former Massachusetts state treasurer and candidate for governor.
A state senator weighed in as well.
“... in a budget plan that is vague in every other sense, [Romney] has only been clear about ending funding to Planned Parenthood that provides critical breast and cervical cancer screenings and reproductive health to women across the country,” wrote Massachusetts state Senator Katherine Clark. “Romney has also vowed to end the free cancer screenings, immunizations and domestic violence counseling that were provided for under the Affordable Care Act.”
Wrote Massachusetts state Sen. Karen Spilka, “A Mitt Romney administration would force women to re-fight battles over control of their own health care, access to equal pay for equal work, and the ability to plan when to have a family.”