Malloy transition plan began when he was still the underdog

A transition plan for Governor-elect Dan Malloy began in August with a phone call Malloy made to a friend in Florida. At the time, Malloy still trailed Ned Lamont in the race for the Democratic nomination by 5 percentage points.

“He expressed a great deal of caution. He didn’t want to be presumptuous,” said Chris Cooney, the recipient of the phone call. “But it’s very indicative of how Dan Malloy approaches things. He is very organized and methodical. He sees around corners.”

Malloy felt he was closing on Lamont. But he did not want to distract anyone on his campaign staff by focusing on a task that assumed a victory.

So he turned to Cooney, the manager of his 2006 campaign for governor, who had relocated to Winter Park, Fla., for family reasons. “I was a good choice for no other reason than I was literally away,” Cooney said.

Cooney began a quiet research project, eventually interviewing three former chiefs of staff, their subordinates and one former governor of a southern state, whom he declined to identify, to assemble a checklist and the beginning of an outline for a new administration.

Every winner of a race for governor faces a similar challenge: In about two months’ time, he must perform a search for two dozen top executives, as well as plan a move,  an inaugural and a speech that will help define a new administration.

“Most people think you walk in and hire people,” Cooney said. “It’s so much more complicated than that.”

There is the personal. Malloy came under the protection of the state police on Tuesday. As mayor of Stamford and as a candidate for governor, Malloy is used to having a driver.  But now he must get used to a 24/7 shadow, something that has been a difficult transition for other governors.

“There is the residence. There is a process there to get the current first family out and the new one in,” Cooney said. “You have a first lady who has a career. What are all the issues you need to look at there?”

Cathy Malloy, who is the executive director of a rape crisis center in Stamford, always has worked. Malloy declined to answer for his wife, but said he assumes she eventually will look for a job in the Hartford area.

All at once, the new governor has to make decisions about the goals he wants to set for state agencies and then find the right executives to run them. In Malloy’s case, the task is complicated by his intention to merge many offices to cut overhead expenses.

“He has to hire between 25 and 30 top executives,” Cooney said. “It’s almost like a MASH-unit way of starting up a really big company. And it goes deeper than that once he gets into office. There are boards and commissions that need to be filled.”

Cooney said he was relieved after the primary when Malloy designated Timothy F. Bannon, the president and executive director of the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, to oversee the transition.

Bannon had declined to take a role in the campaign, saying it might conflict with his role at CHFA. Instead, he agreed to work behind the scenes with Cooney to prepare for a victory.

“I’ve known Tim for years,” Cooney said. “Tim and I have been working on this a couple months now.”

The outgoing administration of Gov. M. Jodi Rell provided office space Wednesday to the transition team, which is now co-chaired by Nancy Wyman, the lieutenant governor-elect.

Rell’s chief of staff, M. Lisa Moody, met with Bannon on Tuesday, giving him the first of several binders that every agency has produced for the new administration.

Bannon is familiar with them. As head of the CHFA, a quasi-public agency, he had to prepare one.

“For CHFA,” Bannon said, “I’ll turn it over to myself.”