Former state Rep. Elizabeth Ritter of Waterford was nominated Wednesday by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to serve as commissioner of the Aging Department.
The agency was re-established by Malloy in 2013 and has a budget of about $9.5 million. Her nomination will need to be approved by one chamber of the General Assembly.
Ritter, who ran and lost a state Senate race in 2014, will be paid $125,000 a year in her new position.
Malloy said the state has a growing senior population, which is one of the reasons he decided to re-establish the Aging Department as a standalone agency.
“The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that nearly 26 percent of Connecticut’s population will be 60 and older by the year 2030, up from approximately 20 percent in 2014,” according to an Aging Department report.
“We want our seniors to live with dignity, security, and independence,” Malloy said.
With an increasingly older population, Ritter said it’s increasingly important for us to advocate for our seniors and their caregivers.
“This agency as you all know is a young agency here in Connecticut and many, many thanks go to our first commissioner [former] Sen. Edith Prague,” Ritter said. “Edith’s work in putting the agency together and the passion she always has and still brings to these issues are remarkable.”
Prague retired from the position in the summer.
Ritter, who served for five terms and spent four years as co-chair of the Public Health Committee, was a lead proponent of the aid-in-dying legislation, which never made it to the floor of either chamber.
Members of Second Thoughts Connecticut showed up at the press conference Wednesday to voice their concern about Ritter being nominated to head an agency, which cares for the elderly.
Stephen Mendelsohn of Second Thoughts Connecticut said there hasn’t been any legislation introduced this year, but he anticipates it’s an issue the legislature will address again this year.
Malloy has not made many definitive statements about the issue, which opponents call “assisted suicide.”
Malloy said both his parents died after long illnesses and each played a significant decision-making role in what treatments they would receive.
“I’m in favor of legislation that allows people to play that active role,” Malloy said Wednesday. “I’ve always made that very clear and I’ll make judgments about legislation that’s drafted and passed rather than do it as a precursor.”
He continued, “I think people know I do have some worries on the other side of it, so finding the right balance that allows people to play and active role in decision making in their care and how long it goes on is important to me.”
But Malloy made clear that Wednesday’s nomination of Ritter to head the Aging Department was about services for the living.
“I understand that’s an issue that people talk about, but it’s not an issue about what this department does,” Malloy said.