NOW that Gov. Michael Dukakis is back at his State House desk, many of his Beacon Hill colleagues are sighing with relief. No one's sighs may be deeper than those of Evelyn Murphy. Though the lieutenant governor will not be taking over the state's executive reins in January, she can take comfort in the fact that what could be the toughest fiscal challenge in the Massachusetts history will not be dumped into her lap.
And with Mr. Dukakis back home being gubernatorial, Miss Murphy should have more time to chart her future course.
While she no doubt still hopes to be governor, whether she runs in 1990 could depend very much on what Mr. Dukakis does. She is not ruling out a possible challenge if he seeks reelection. ``I'm keeping all of my options open,'' Murphy says, making it clear that she expects to make no decision for several months, probably not until summer.
Meanwhile, she is not about to fade into the background and quietly mark time. Nor is she about to do anything that could alienate her from the governor, with whom she has served on the current Massachusetts executive team for the nearly two years. She also was in Dukakis's first two cabinets.
That Murphy has no intention of sticking around in the commonwealth's No. 2 chair, is shown none too subtly by her appointment of a chief of staff whose background is largely in public relations and political reporting.
David M. Rosen, who first went to work for Murphy early this fall on a part-time basis, will be paid $67,000 a year. He will help coordinate and oversee a 22-member staff in a largely low-visibility operation.
Ironically, Mr. Rosen may for several weeks at least make more than the lieutenant governor. Her $70,000 annual salary was rolled back to $65,000 with the Nov. 8 voter repeal of last year's salary hike for legislators and members of the state's executive branch.
Rosen's familiarity with Massachusetts government, gained from several years as a State House correspondent for United Press International, could stand him in good stead.
Although the functions of the lieutenant governor's chief of staff will be considerably broader than that of an adviser, it seems almost certain that he will be expected to provide counsel in helping build Murphy's image as an able government leader who gets things done.
Try as she surely has to make the most of her opportunities to be gubernatorial during Dukakis's absences, it is questionable how much attention it brought her. Things in the executive suite were pretty much run by the Dukakis staff. Murphy was brought in only when the governor was unavailable.
Murphy's main extra assignment was to preside over the monthly cabinet meetings.
Dukakis aides were so eager for the governor to prove he could handle the governorship and a presidential campaign at the same time that the signing of most bills were done when he was in the state.
The lieutenant governor did, however, get to sign the automobile insurance reform legislation Nov. 5, but with Dukakis participating in the ceremony by satellite from the campaign trail. His aides, eager that their man get maximum credit for the measure, had considered flying him to Boston for the signing but could not fit it into his schedule.
As frustrated as the lieutenant governor may be that the past year and a half did not gain her more public attention, she is not about to complain or do anything that could build walls or even low fences between her and the governor.
As she waits for word concerning the governor's political plans, Murphy, who has raised close to $800,000 for her next campaign, is determined to continue building her already substantial statewide support organization and keep cash contributions flowing.