Gov. Dannel P. Malloy nominated Andres Ayala, a Democratic state senator from Bridgeport, to head the Department of Motor Vehicles, replacing current commissioner Melody Currey, who is expected to move to the Administrative Services Department.
Malloy announced Ayala’s nomination at a state Capitol press conference Monday. It is the latest in a series of administration announcements about the leadership of various state agencies ahead of the Malloy’s second term in office.
All of Malloy’s second term commissioner appointments will need to be approved by the legislature.
Ayala, a school teacher in Bridgeport, was elected last month to a second term in the state senate. Malloy said Ayala will not take the oath of office in January. A special election will be held in the reliably Democratic district.
The governor noted that the beginning of his tenure as DMV commissioner will coincide with the launch of a new program enabling undocumented residents to obtain drivers licenses.
“To have that coincide, roughly speaking, with appointment of a Latino commissioner fluent in Spanish, I think sends an important message a large segment of our population both documented and undocumented, that Connecticut is a state in which we will treat all of our residents fairly,” Malloy said.
Ayala, who is Puerto Rican, and Sen. Art Linares who is Cuban were the first Latinos to be elected to the state Senate.
During his time in the legislature, Ayala lobbied the governor’s office on behalf of his constituents and Latinos throughout the the state, Malloy said. The governor said he once tried unsuccessfully to get Ayala to join his administration either as a commissioner or deputy commissioner of an agency. Ayala said he wasn’t ready.
“One of the things I try to do is not bite off more than I can chew,” Ayala said. “At the time when the governor and I had that conversation in a past term, I didn’t feel that I was ready.”
Malloy also praised Currey, who will leave the DMV to take over DAS from retiring Commissioner Donald DeFronzo.
“It was a pretty immediate decision that Melody was one of the people we needed to talk to based on her track record at DMV,” Malloy said.
The administration made two other announcements Monday through press releases. Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Dora Schriro will stay on into Malloy’s second term. Schriro’s reappointment comes despite an investigation by the New York Times into violence at Rikers Island during her tenure as New York’s top correction official. According to the Times, Schriro had subordinates remove damaging information from reports that were later given to federal investigators.
Schriro has been with the Malloy administration for about one year. During that time, Malloy credited her department with reducing a large backlog at the state crime lab and other improvements. Schriro has also took over as the administration scaled back a controversial effort to consolidate some of its state police and dispatch functions.
“Thanks to the efforts of folks on the state, local and federal levels, in addition to community-based nonprofits and other community advocates, Connecticut is experiencing its lowest violent crime rate in four decades, twice as low as the national average,” Malloy said in a press release. “Working with Commissioner Schriro and the team of law enforcement officials at DESPP, we can expand these practices, build on these efforts, and improve the quality of life in communities throughout Connecticut.”
The administration also announced Monday the departure of Developmental Services Commissioner Terrence Macy, who has led the department since 2011.
“Commissioner Macy’s leadership has helped DDS carry out this core mission, particularly serving persons with intellectual disabilities and autism,” Malloy said in a press release. “I appreciate his service to the state and thank him for what he has provided in this core function of state government.”
Malloy did not immediately announce a replacement for Macy.
Six other commissioners have announced their departures so far. They include DeFronzo, Department of Banking Commissioner Howard Pitkin, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Insurance Commissioner Thomas Leonardi, and Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein.