La­mont pre­pares for new rou­tine

The News-Times - - NEWS - By Mark Pazniokas

HART­FORD — In a con­fer­ence room across the hall from his stil­lun­dec­o­rated State Capi­tol of­fice suite, Gov. Ned La­mont and his se­nior staff worked Thurs­day af­ter­noon on set­ting the rhythm and ca­dence of a new ad­min­is­tra­tion — and the man who leads it.

Wed­nes­day nights will be kept open, time set aside for the new gov­er­nor to net­work with leg­is­la­tors and oth­ers at the Ex­ec­u­tive Res­i­dence in Hart­ford, be­gin­ning next week. He hopes to get home to Green­wich on Thurs­day nights. His sched­uler took note.

He is early to bed and early to rise. A sur­prise, per­haps, to any­one treated Thurs­day to a video of his danc­ing the pre­vi­ous night to the Wild Cherry clas­sic, “Play That Funky Mu­sic.” It was posted on Twit­ter by his leg­isla­tive di­rec­tor, Chris Soto.

At 65 years old and after more than three decades of mar­riage, La­mont is in­tent on spend­ing as much time as pos­si­ble with his wife, An­nie, a ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist with a firm in Green­wich. The cou­ple ex­pect to di­vide their time be­tween Hart­ford and Green­wich. Again, the sched­uler took note.

And so it went on the first full day of the La­mont ad­min­is­tra­tion. It be­gan with a brunch at the Res­i­dence with his wife, their three chil­dren and the out-of-town rel­a­tives and friends who at­tended his In­au­gu­ral Ball.

“They are lean­ing into this thing,” said Ryan Dra­jew­icz, his chief of staff. “They are stay­ing at the Res­i­dence through the week­end and will ex­plore the town, if you will, as a fam­ily.”

The se­nior staff gath­ered at 2 p.m. with the gov­er­nor. They re­viewed po­ten­tial leg­is­la­tion, the likely sched­ule for rolling out a bud­get, the me­chan­ics of a gov­er­nor split­ting time be­tween two homes, and his pref­er­ences for how to work.

“The gov­er­nor-elect, uh, the gov­er­nor likes the cre­ative white space,” Dra­jew­icz said. Cre­ative white space is brain­storm­ing and time for La­mont to pose ques­tions.

Dra­jew­icz smiled at his own ref­er­ence to La­mont as the gov­er­nor­elect, one of many ad­just­ments be­ing made Thurs­day.

La­mont’s se­nior ad­viser, Colleen Flana­gan John­son, and his chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer, Paul Mounds, will share an of­fice di­rectly across the hall from the gov­er­nor’s suite. On Thurs­day, there was no desk for Mounds. A worn con­fer­ence ta­ble was pushed to­ward the door, bound for des­ti­na­tions un­known.

But the phones worked. La­mont’s staff says the ad­min­is­tra­tion of his pre­de­ces­sor, Dan­nel P. Mal­loy, pre­pared a com­pre­hen­sive tran­si­tion plan.

Mounds up­dated the gov­er­nor and staff on the sta­tus of hir­ing new com­mis­sion­ers. Of the 28 state agen­cies, La­mont has hired eight new de­part­ment heads and re­tained 10 from the Mal­loy ad­min­is­tra­tion. There are 10 oth­ers whose lead­er­ship is un­de­cided.

In his ini­tial speech to the leg­is­la­ture, La­mont em­pha­sized eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment as the key to Con­necti­cut’s fis­cal ills. He promised three things: Growth! Growth! Growth!

La­mont’s staff has been work­ing on an over­haul of the De­part­ment of Eco­nomic and Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment, and the gov­er­nor hopes to out­line the new ap­proach and in­tro­duce the per­son who will lead it in the next week or two, Dra­jew­icz said.

The goal is to stan­dard­ize the ap­proach taken by the state last year, with La­mont’s in­volve­ment as a vol­un­teer, that con­vinced In­fosys to open a tech­nol­ogy hub in down­town Hart­ford. Busi­ness and aca­demic lead­ers were en­listed in the re­cruit­ment.

One of La­mont’s friends, In­dra Nooyi, the for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive of Pep­siCo, in­tro­duced him to a top ex­ec­u­tive of In­fosys. Dur­ing his State of the State speech on Wed­nes­day, Nooyi sat on a bench in the well of the House with Ray Dalio, the founder of the world’s largest hedge fund, and John Olsen, the for­mer pres­i­dent of the Con­necti­cut AFL-CIO.

“If you look at who was sit­ting there yes­ter­day, these are peo­ple who could be any­where,” Dra­jew­icz said.

La­mont is a net­worker. He has few re­la­tion­ship with leg­is­la­tors, but his ap­proach with them and busi­ness lead­ers will be per­sonal. Hence, the reser­va­tion of Wed­nes­day nights for net­work­ing.

“It’s crit­i­cally im­por­tant to him,” Dra­jew­icz said.

The ques­tion of di­vid­ing time be­tween pri­vate and pub­lic homes was an is­sue for Low­ell P. We­icker Jr., who ini­tially in­sisted he would stay many nights at Ap­ple Jack Farm, his home in Green­wich. M. Jodi Rell set many Fri­days aside as “read­ing days” at her an­tique farm­house in Brook­field. Mal­loy sold his Stam­ford home after his elec­tion.

Ul­ti­mately, We­icker and Rell spent more time in Hart­ford than they orig­i­nally an­tic­i­pated. At least to be­gin, La­mont will try to sched­ule meet­ings on Fri­days in Fair­field County.

Flana­gan John­son said La­mont’s sched­uler will con­sult with An­nie

La­mont’s of­fice, see­ing when their jobs can place them in the same lo­cale. La­mont will aim for a Mon­day-Thurs­day sched­ule in Hart­ford, or at least no later than mid­day Fri­day.

Flana­gan John­son said he hopes to spend time down­state meet­ing with busi­ness lead­ers — and law­mak­ers. He has in­vited new leg­is­la­tors to the Ex­ec­u­tive Res­i­dence next week, but he al­ready has be­gun his out­reach.

The na­tional an­them at his in­au­gu­ral ball was played by Sen. Ge­orge Lo­gan, a Repub­li­can. He is a gui­tarist who ably cov­ers Jimi Hen­drix so­los, in­clud­ing the late rocker’s mem­o­rable elec­tric ver­sion of the Star Span­gled Ban­ner.

La­mont heard Lo­gan play it at a char­ity gala in Oc­to­ber in Ox­ford. Lo­gan said La­mont told him, “When I win in Novem­ber, I’ll want you to play it at my in­au­gu­ral ball.”

Lo­gan, who sup­ported Repub­li­can Bob Ste­fanowski for gov­er­nor, laughed at the time, not quite tak­ing him se­ri­ously. But La­mont called his cell phone after win­ning, leav­ing him a voice­mail invit­ing him to kick off the ball.

“I thought it was a good ges­ture,” Lo­gan said.

So, Lo­gan per­formed.

And La­mont’s first words at his in­au­gu­ral were di­rected at a Repub­li­can: “Sen. Lo­gan, I knew Jimi Hen­drix. Jimi Hen­drix was a friend of mine. And se­na­tor, you’re a kick-ass Jimi Hen­drix.”

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