It would be easy for people to assume that it might be awkward for the current gubernatorial administration to be in the same room as a former gubernatorial administration, but it wasn’t.
Enough time has passed between former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s administration and Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration that their meeting today at the state library for the unveiling of Rell’s official portrait was pleasant.
Malloy, who has had some harsh criticism over the years for her handling of the state’s fiscal situation, said “everyone governs under different circumstances and different times and there are different priorities, that’s just reality.”
“I have the highest regard for the governor and I think she has pretty high regard for me and we get along very well. In fact, we have some great conversations,” Malloy said. “There are policy differences. One of us is a Republican and one of us is a Democrat, so we have sometimes different approaches, but the utmost respect.”
Rell concurred. She said she knows who she is and what kind of governor she was. She said she’s comfortable with the decisions she made and she doesn’t miss being the state’s chief executive.
“I miss the people, but I don’t miss the politics at all,” Rell said. “I’m having way too much fun and I’m enjoying life.”
Rell, who was lieutenant governor for 10 years after serving in the state House of Representatives, was swept into office in 2004 when former Gov. John G. Rowland resigned during a corruption investigation. She ran and won her own term in 2006 after fending off a challenge from New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr.
“We all know she took over during very difficult times,” Sen. John McKinney said. “We all know that when she took over the confidence of the people of Connecticut in their government, in the office of the governor was as low as it’s ever been.”
But because of who Rell is, she was able to “restore people’s faith in our government.”
McKinney said lawmakers can not serve the people of Connecticut “if they don’t trust and believe in their government. She restored that trust.”
But on a more personal note, McKinney said Rell was a caring person. He recalled a time when she asked him to visit her office when he was having a really bad day.
“I walk into her office and it’s just the two of us. Lisa Moody wasn’t there so I thought maybe I’m safe here,” McKinney said.
Moody, Rell’s former chief of staff, had a reputation for being a gruff enforcer who legislators and staffers didn’t want to upset. The line caused the room of mostly former Rell staffers and commissioners to roar in laughter.
Turns out, Rell had summoned McKinney to her office to find out what was going on in his life. She didn’t want to talk to him about the budget or any specific piece of legislation.
“That’s just who Jodi Rell was. That’s who Jodi Rell is,” McKinney said.”She’s a person who cares. And she served not for her own ego, not for her own purpose, she served to better the lives of the people of the state of Connecticut.”
Rell, the 87th governor of Connecticut, was only the second female governor in the state’s history. Former Gov. Ella Grasso was the first.
Rell remarked that she was pleased to help “Ella take on a few of these men.”
Rell’s portrait was painted by Laurel Stern Boeck. The state budgeted about $36,600 to commission the portrait.
Click here for more photos of the event.