Natalie Braswell at a Hartford press conference on Dec. 10 Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

HARTFORD, CT — Natalie Braswell, a former assistant comptroller, will assume the role of state comptroller when Kevin Lembo steps down at the end of the year, Gov. Ned Lamont announced during a Friday press conference. 

The governor found himself with the responsibility of appointing a new comptroller last week when Lembo announced he would leave the post at the end of the month as a result of a serious cardiac condition. 

Braswell, who currently works at the Energy and Environmental Protection Department as chief of planning, legal, and regulatory affairs, worked in the comptroller’s office under Lembo for roughly a decade as general counsel and assistant comptroller. She said she intended to hold the post only for the duration of Lembo’s term and not seek re-election. 

“Though I’ve always thought of myself as a public servant and not a public figure, I view this opportunity to positively impact the people of the state of Connecticut and continue to do the transformative work that Kevin started and prepare the Office of the State Comptroller for the next comptroller,” Braswell said. 

In a press release, Lembo praised Braswell as well versed in the comptroller’s office and a “brilliant attorney [and] a dedicated public servant.”

“She has critical experience in contract negotiations, labor relations, technology implementation projects, and other key areas that will be of high importance over the next year,” Lembo said. “More than that, she is a wonderful person who will serve with compassion, toughness, and a genuine desire to do what’s right.”

By appointing a comptroller without political ambitions, Lamont ducks the appearance of influencing next year’s race for what is, along with the secretary of the state, one of two open seats for constitutional officer posts in Connecticut. The governor said he wanted to ensure a seamless transition as Lembo, who held the office for around a decade, departs unexpectedly.

“I wanted Natalie to be able to step into an environment that is not going to be politicized and absolutely focus on continuing Kevin’s legacy and maintaining our forward momentum and give an open shot to folks who want to compete for the job this coming November,” Lamont said. 

Braswell’s appointment prompted quick statements of endorsement from two legislators considered likely to explore a potential run for the position next year. Rep. Sean Scanlon, a Guilford Democrat who is co-chair of the legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee and executive at Tweed New Haven Airport, called Braswell an “excellent choice” to finish out Lembo’s term. He said he was weighing a run. 

“I love the legislature and being the executive of a growing airport but the opportunity to serve our state at a higher level and continue the work I’ve done with Kevin is something I am seriously considering,” Scanlon said. 

Sen. Matt Lesser, a Middletown Democrat who co-chairs the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, congratulated Braswell as “extremely well-qualified” and the first woman of color to hold the post. 

“No one can fully replace Kevin Lembo but I have confidence in Governor Lamont’s selection,” Lesser said. In August, Lesser formed a general exploratory committee for statewide office.  

Lesser says he’s still focused on Secretary of the State. 

“But it’s flattering that there are folks out there who think I’d be qualified for other offices. The exploratory process offers an opportunity to really listen to stakeholders as we move towards 2022,” he said.

In the meantime, Braswell said she had been in contact with Lembo to facilitate what she described as a difficult transition in some ways. 

“I think it’s especially hard for him because it’s not the way he envisioned leaving the office. This wasn’t his choice but something he had to do for his health,” Braswell said. “It is a hard transition and I think that’s why it’s hitting us kind of hard.”