McCarthy, a Dorchester native who studied social anthropology at UMass Boston, has spent the past four years as a top lieutenant to outgoing EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, who resigned in December.
“People wonder why social anthropology would be a good background for somebody in government,” McCarthy told the UMass Boston alumni magazine in 2010. “I like to tell people it’s the study of primitive societies, and there’s nothing more primitive than the Legislature.”
Her new job won’t require a long commute – McCarthy already works down the hall as head of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation where, the Washington Post says, she “played a key role in crafting strict new pollution rules.”
Before joining the federal EPA, McCarthy held key environmental jobs in Connecticut under Gov. Jodi Rell, and in Massachusetts under five governors, from Michael Dukakis to Mitt Romney.
The appointment requires Senate confirmation, which may not come easy in the sharply divided chamber. But McCarthy’s work has earned respect from environmentalists and energy executives alike. She has been praised for her straight-talking style and willingness to listen to all sides of an issue – skills she honed as a student at UMass Boston.
“I’m a solutions-oriented person. I think people see me as being fair, as being frank, and as being able to get stuff done. That’s the kind of reputation I’d always like to have,” McCarthy said.