Former Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, who lost a race for state Senate in November, was named Wednesday as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s choice as the next commissioner on aging.
Ritter, 63, a five-term member of the House, would lead an agency that Malloy restored as a stand-alone department nearly two years ago. Its function was folded into the Department of Social Services two decades ago.
The Department on Aging has had an interim commissioner, Margaret Gerundo-Murkette, since the retirement of former Sen. Edith G. Prague, whom Malloy appointed in March 2013 to lead the newly independent department.
“Edith’s work in putting the agency together, the passion that she always has and still brings to these issue is always remarkable,” Ritter said. “Her influence and her passion are things that will certainly stay with the agency, with all of us, for many years to come.”
Malloy said the rationale for a stand-alone department was simple: Connecticut is aging. By 2030, more than 21 percent of the state’s population is expected to be of retirement age.
Ritter was the co-chair of the Public Health Committee. She was a proponent of a bill to allow what was variously described as aid-in-dying or assisted-suicide, a measure about which Malloy has expressed misgivings. It did not come to a vote in either chamber.
The governor said the issue was not a factor in his decision to hire Ritter.
“This is not about that issue. This is about the services that we are tendering to the living and with a special emphasis on keeping people independent and in their own home,” Malloy said.
AARP praised Malloy’s selection, saying that Ritter was a vigorous advocate in the legislature services that help older residents stay in their homes, as well as looking out for consumers of all ages on energy issues.
Ritter will be paid $125,000 annually. Her nomination is subject to confirmation by the General Assembly.
Malloy has yet to name second-term commissioners of Banking, Developmental Services or Insurance, all departments whose commissioners retired or resigned. He also has interim commissioners at Correction, Education and Veterans’ Affairs.