Malloy begins with pomp, circumstance and interim commissioners

Dan Malloy takes office Wednesday as the state’s 88th governor and its first Democrat in a generation with his administration still a work in progress: He has named permanent leaders for fewer than half the state’s 23 major agencies.

Malloy, 55, is scheduled to take the oath at 2 p.m. at a ceremony in the cavernous drill shed within the State Armory in Hartford. A 19-gun artillery salute and helicopter flyover will greet the new governor as he exits the armory at 3 p.m. with his running mate, Nancy S. Wyman.

And then it’s back to work.

Malloy intends to sign his first executive orders in office at 3:15 p.m., including one that will begin to change accounting rules for the state, making it more difficult for him and future executives to gloss over the state’s financial liabilities.

Schedule of Inaugural Events

On his first day as governor, most agencies will remain in the hands of Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s appointees or their deputies. Malloy is overseeing Connecticut’s first full-fledged transition in 16 years, since Lowell P. Weicker Jr. gave way to John G. Rowland in 1995.

“The continuity of government has been assured,” said Timothy F. Bannon, Malloy’s chief of staff and co-chair of his transition team. “Anything that is important to citizens will not be disrupted by the transition at all.”

Rell, who assumed office after Rowland’s resignation in July 2004, inherited a fully staffed government. She had the luxury of time in putting her own stamp on government.

Malloy on Tuesday named his top advisor on health-care reform, Jeannette DeJesús, who he said will occupy a cabinet-level rank in his administration, although she also will serve as a deputy commissioner of public health.

“I’m not certain, but this is probably the last press conference I’ll have before tomorrow,” Malloy joked, a nod to the flurry of activity on the eve of beginning his four-year term as governor.

His inner circle is in place, as well as top aides at the Capitol who will handle press and relations with the legislature. Former state Rep. Michael Christ of East Hartford and James Desantos were named Tuesday as his legislative liaisons.

Six legislators are leaving the General Assembly to join the administration, including Sen. Andrew J. McDonald of Stamford, a friend and confidant who will be Malloy’s general counsel. McDonald will be one of three top adivsors with Bannon and Roy Occhiogrosso, the new governor’s media strategist.

Malloy said Tuesday he is keeping his commitment that “our administration would look like the state of Connecticut.”

“I’m not keeping score,” he said. “I think so far it does.”

DeJesús is Malloy’s first high-level Hispanic appointee. He also has named 11 department heads. Five are women, and six are men. Two are African American.

Malloy has named new commissioners for eight departments: Donald DeFronzo, Administrative Services; Steven Reviczky, Agriculture; Joette Katz, Children and Families; Melody Currey, Motor Vehicles; Ben Barnes, Office of Policy and Management; Jewel Mullen, Public Health; Reuben Bradford, Public Safety; and Kevin Sullivan, Revenue Services.

In addition, he has reappointed Linda Schwartz at Veterans Affairs, Howard Pitkin at Banking and Patricia Rehmer at Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Three other commissioners have been announced as interim appointments: Peter O’Meara at Developmental Services, Michael Starkowski at Social Services and Jeffrey Parker at Transportation.

Bannon said other commissioners also have agreed to remain temporarily, including Robert Galvin at Public Health, since Mullen is not available to begin immediately. Joan McDonald also will stay temporarily at economic development.

“There are no problem areas,” Bannon said.

Katz, who is resigning as a justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court to take over Children and Families, initially was thought to be unavailable until confirmed by the legislature. But Katz is resigning from the court and will begin at DCF on Wednesday, he said.

Bannon said Malloy is close to making other appointments.

“There are names pretty well-vetted,” he said. “We have some people we really have our eyes on who have been exposed to the vetting process and key decision makers. We’re trying to get them to sign on the dotted line.”