With the election settled, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Tuesday the first changes in his administration for his second term: the long-planned departures of his chief of staff, Paul Mounds, and general counsel, Nora R. Dannehy.
Jonathan Dach, the deputy chief of staff, will succeed Mounds. Natalie Braswell, a lawyer whom Lamont appointed to finished Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo’s term when he resigned, will succeed Dannehy.
Lamont informed his staff of the changes Monday.
Mounds, who joined the administration on its first day expecting to stay for two years, was promoted to chief of staff on Feb. 27, 2020 — a week before the first COVID-19 case was detected in Connecticut.
His two-year plan was scuttled as the governor assumed extraordinary powers under gubernatorial emergency declarations, Mounds said Monday.
“I felt it’s a responsibility if you take over that role, especially at that time and that juncture, that I finish out the term,” said Mounds, whose resignation will take effect on Jan. 4, the last day of the term.
The General Assembly begins its session the same day, and Lamont will deliver a State of the State address to lawmakers. Last week, the day after his reelection victory, Lamont said economic growth would be his priority.
His economic adviser, David Lehman, a former Goldman Sachs partner who has been running the state Department of Economic and Community Development without salary, is not expected to stay for a second term.
COVID also redefined Lehman’s role. He became the administration’s point of contact for rattled businesses, coordinating the closure and eventual reopening of retail, restaurants, bars, concert venues, theaters and barber shops.
The first emergency declaration came on March 10, 2020, giving the governor unilateral authority to temporarily enact or suspend laws, followed by five extensions that came with increasing degrees of legislative oversight.
The last extension expired on Feb. 15, 2022. It was an emergency like no other.
“Usually when you have these type of events, they last for a day, maybe a week,” Mounds said.
Last week, Mounds and many of the governor’s other appointees mingled outside the Capitol under a sunlit November sky before the governor and the rest of the winning Democratic ticket talked to reporters about the previous day’s election.
They exchanged handshakes, fist bumps and hugs, an acknowledgement of surviving a first term dominated by the disruptions and challenges of a pandemic that redefined many of their jobs.
“We all just kind of had to lean on each other,” Mounds said.
Many of them had been screened for their positions by Mounds.
“At no time we thought that we were identifying our commissioners to manage a global pandemic,” Mounds said. “But we realized quickly that we had a strong group of commissioners who were ready for the task at hand.”
The governor’s first chief of staff was Ryan Drajewicz, whom he recruited from the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates. Drajewicz had been an aide to U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd but had few relationships with lawmakers.
Mounds, who grew up in East Hartford and graduated from Trinity, brought a great familiarity with the state Capitol.
He had been an aide to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for five years, leaving the administration in late 2016 as the director of policy and government affairs for a policy and communications job at the Connecticut Health Foundation.
Dach, who has undergraduate and law degrees from Yale, was policy adviser during Lamont’s 2018 campaign and deputy director of the transition team. Like Mounds, he has been with the administration since its first day, first as its policy director and then as Mounds’ deputy.
Dannehy, a former high-ranking federal prosecutor who became general counsel on March 1, 2021 after her predecessor, Bob Clark, became an Appellate Court judge, said Monday she will be joining a private law practice.
Mounds said he was unsure what he would be doing after Jan. 4. Job-hunting while serving as chief of staff was not practical, he said.
Braswell was general counsel at the comptroller’s office for a decade before becoming the chief lawyer at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in March 2021. She succeeded Lembo, who resigned due to health reasons at the end of 2021.
She has a bachelor’s degree in political science, a master’s in public administration and a law degree, all from the University of Connecticut.