Ex-Wonderland President Joins Baker Administration

By Jon Chesto Globe Staff  June 15, 2015

Dick Dalton had left town for a three-year sojourn to Seattle. But he now has a new prominent role in Boston’s business community after being picked for an economic development job in Governor Charlie Baker’s administration.

You may remember Dalton. He ran the Wonderland Greyhound Park as its president and was Wonderland owner Charlie Sarkis’s right-hand man in the Back Bay Restaurant Group for years. But Wonderland closed down in 2010 after dog racing in the state became illegal — more than a year before the state Legislature approved a casino bill that could have kept gambling alive at the property — and Sarkis sold off the bulk of his restaurant business.

With the crumbling of the Sarkis empire, Dalton headed out to Seattle in 2011 to help expand a sushi chain for restaurant operator Madison Holdings. Frank Feeney, a lawyer at DLA Piper who represented Sarkis’s businesses, connected Dalton with Madison.

The sushi chain didn’t catch on as quickly as Dalton wanted outside of Washington, and he ended up back in Boston last year. While he was gone, he said he kept abreast of local news by reading Boston Globe and Boston Herald stories every morning on the treadmill. And when he saw that Jay Ash would be Baker’s new economic affairs secretary, Dalton dropped Ash a congratulatory note. That connection eventually led to a job offer for the position that Dalton started about a month ago: Boston regional director for the Massachusetts Office of Business Development.

Dalton’s job involves helping local companies expand here, and recruiting new ones into the fold. It also involves a few ribbon-cuttings, such sa the opening of Rhonda Kallman’s Boston Harbor Distillery last week on the Dorchester waterfront.

He said his years running restaurants, with their permitting issues, and a dog track in the heavily-regulated gambling industry give him a better understanding of state government than the typical businessman. And he’s psyched to be back in town, mixing it up with people he knew from his days with Sarkis.

“I’m a Boston boy,” Dalton said. “As much as we enjoyed Seattle, it’s just nice to be home.”

Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.

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