The business of recruiting a new government

His transition team has a personnel committee to screen job applicants, but the file is irresistible. So Dan Malloy spent 90 minutes the other day riffling through the growing collection of resumes in his temporary office at the state Capitol.

Patience is not among the advertised virtues of the incoming governor, though he is trying not to rush populating his new administration that takes office Jan. 5.

His message last week – and Malloy’s nascent administration is taking care to manage expectations about the transition – was that at least four key jobs will be subject to a national search.

“I’m not in a race to fill jobs simply to fill jobs,” Malloy said, just minutes after doing some serious browsing through the resumes. “I’m just not.”

He has announced a national search for commissioners of transportation, environmental protection, education and social services.

As Malloy is preparing to take office, other governors across the country are winding down, sending public-policy experts and managers into the job market.

“I want to know what’s out there nationally,” Malloy said. “That’s really what I’m saying, and I may add one or two to that list.”

If he doesn’t find anyone he likes, at least he will have a yardstick by which to judge prospects from Connecticut, names in the growing pile of resumes.

Lt. Gov.-elect Nancy Wyman, who is overseeing the transition with Malloy’s chief of staff, Timothy Bannon, said, “No matter where you go, there is a resume or a phone call.”

Bannon said he was handed resumes as he attended a testimonial dinner Wednesday night for Gov. M. Jodi Rell. At least one job-seeker called Bannon the next morning to politely inquire if he had, indeed, taken the resumes with him. He had.

Into the file they went.

“There’s lots of good candidates,” Malloy said. “I think we’re up to well over 600 resumes for positions. Some of those are just people sending in resumes, ‘Find me a job.’ I’m not in the business of finding you a job. If you don’t know what job you want, it’s hard for me to fill in the blank.”

His personnel committee is screening the resumes, but Malloy still went through the file. Even as his public message was one of deliberation, Malloy wanted to check out the names. Now.

“You know, I don’t wait,” Malloy said, laughing. “There are certain people I find intriguing or recognize their names, or they have intriguing addresses, you know–out of state.”

State government has about 55,000 employees. A new governor has the ability to hire about 100–and expectations for those are high.

Malloy has named three top appointees: Bannon; Ben Barnes, a top aide during his mayoral administration in Stamford, as secretary of the office of policy and management; and Justice Joette Katz of the Connecticut Supreme Court as the commissioner of children and families.

The day Katz was named, one Democratic political activist having lunch in the Legisative Office Building reacted by saying, “About time he named a woman.” She was only half-kidding.

Before his transition team was announced, an NAACP official questioned if it had sufficient minority representation, based on its rumored members.

Women are pressing him to increase the numbers of women in state government. A coalition of women’s groups already has given the transition team 61 resumes.

Bannon and Wyman said they are aware that the administration’s appointments will be judged by many measures. Are they diverse, based on race and gender? Is there enough new blood? Too many insiders? Not enough? Did Malloy include enough of his key supporters? Too many?

“I really believe the best and the brightest are among all those groups,” Wyman said. “We just have to seek it out.”

On election night, Malloy already knew he would offer Bannon the job of chief of staff. Had he won in 2006, when Malloy also ran for governor, he would have hired him then.

But he said he had no master list. In summer, he had asked Chris Cooney, a former top aide from Stamford now living in Florida, to plan the transition.

“I didn’t spend a whole of time during the campaign on transition,” Malloy said, adding that his contacts with Cooney were sporadic. “I had conversations with him if I was in the car on the way home at 11 o’clock at night.”

For the office of policy and management, which oversees the make-or-break areas of the budget and labor relations, Malloy had a list of state government insiders and outsiders.

Malloy said he knew all along he was going to hire Barnes, a trusted aide who had a series of key jobs in Stamford, for something. The only question was for what.

“I could take the most troubled department in the state and turn it over to Ben. He would straighten it out,” Malloy said. “It wasn’t a question of whether he was going to play a role. I had to make a decision on what role. And I entrusted him with OPM.”

In two trips to Washington, Malloy sought recommendations from officials in the Obama administration, including an old acquaintance, Lisa P. Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and a former official in the administration of former Gov. Jon Corzine of New Jersey.

Malloy said he also called on Gina McCarthy, an assistant EPA administrator who was Rell’s commissioner of environmental protection.

“She’s got the kind of mind, she could do anything in government,” Malloy said of McCarthy. “Unfortunately she seems happy in Washington.”