Former Deputy Treasurer, State Senator, and West Hartford Mayor Jonathan Harris will take over the reigns of Connecticut’s Democratic Party as its new executive director.

Harris, 48, said Friday in a phone interview that the state is at a critical point in its history and heading up the party is an amazing opportunity to continue his public service and work with the first Democratic governor in more than two decades.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy welcomed the announcement.

“From advocacy on behalf of seniors to his efforts to improve access to healthcare to his work to improve local government, his energy and dedication to our shared Democratic principles make him an ideal candidate to serve the State Central Committee as its executive director,” Malloy said in a press release.

Harris will replace Eric Hyers, who was with the state party for about a year before he left to take a job as Rhode Island Congressman David N. Cicilline’s campaign manager, a position he held before coming to Connecticut. Before Hyers, Dan Kelly, Malloy’s former campaign manager, filled in as executive director as the party searched to find a replacement for Justin Kronholm, who took a position with Attorney General George Jepsen in 2011.

“We’ve made huge gains in the last several years — time and again, turning back the wave of right-wing Republican influence and appealing to the voters with a message of fairness and equality,” Democratic State Central Committee Chairwoman Nancy J. DiNardo said. “I strongly believe that Jonathan’s style of leadership is exactly what the party needs to move forward.”

Most of Harris’ political career has been focused on public policy, at both the state and municipal levels. The inside political game will prove a new challenge for him as he balances the various desires of the Democratic Party in a critical election year.

But Harris is no stranger to politics. In 2010 he gave up his Senate seat in order to run for Secretary of the State. Harris finished a close second at the Democratic State Convention and vowed to primary, but decided against it and ended his bid a few weeks later.

Harris served for six years in the Senate where he served as co-chair of the Human Services Committee and later as co-chair of the Public Health Committee.

Prior to his service in the Senate, Harris served as mayor of West Hartford from 2001 to 2004. He holds a bachelor’s degree in politics and Russian studies from Brandeis University and a juris doctorate from the New York University School of Law.