HARTFORD, CT — Josh Geballe, one of Gov. Ned Lamont’s closest advisors will leave state service to join an entrepreneurship program at Yale University, Lamont announced during a Tuesday press conference.
Geballe, a former IBM executive, joined the administration as commissioner of administrative services soon after Lamont took office in 2019. The governor expanded Geballe’s responsibilities a year later to include the role of chief operating officer.
During the afternoon press conference, Lamont praised Geballe as an “extraordinary leader for this state.”
Geballe has been a key figure in the administration’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic. During virtual press briefings, which occurred daily at the height of the emergency, Geballe fielded questions related to testing, PPE contracts, the rollout of the vaccine, and state employees among other things.
“It’s been a little like a war with all the incoming over the last couple years and if you’re going to be in a foxhole, you want to be in a foxhole with Josh Geballe,” Lamont said. “He was the first guy I talked to at 6:30 in the morning and the last guy I talked to at 10:30 at night.”
Michelle Gilman, Geballe’s deputy, will become commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services, Lamont said. Paul Mounds, the governor’s chief of staff, said the administration would decide later who would fill the chief operating officer position.
“This is going to be a seamless transition,” Lamont said. “Michelle is going to be an extraordinary commissioner for DAS, a right hand for me, a right hand for Paul Mounds.”
Geballe said the Yale position, senior associate provost for entrepreneurship and innovation, was created last fall and would involve providing support for students and faculty to help launch innovative ideas into the local community.
“It was something of a dream job for me, for the longer term,” Geballe said.
Lamont has often made Geballe the face of his administration’s efforts to streamline and consolidate state government amidst a swell of state employee retirements. The governor often cites Geballe’s tech background as evidence of the premium the administration places on modernizing state services.
“We’ve got to upgrade our technology systems,” Lamont told the Connecticut Business and Industry Association late last month. “I’ve got Josh Geballe over there at Department of Administrative Services. He’s not a former legislator or something he used to work at IBM. So you can see the priority we’ve put there.”
On Tuesday, the governor said he expected those modernization efforts to continue under Gilman’s tenure.
“We’re still getting started,” he said. “We put off IT upgrades and state governments across the country put it off for an awful long time. I was shocked when I got up here to the state in terms of how much more we had to do.”
Geballe commended Gilman for taking on the responsibilities of deputy chief operating officer during the height of the pandemic as the administration was working out of the Emergency Operations Center. Gilman told reporters she looked forward to continuing those efforts as the new head of administrative services.
“The work doesn’t stop here,” she said. “We continue every day to see how we can do better, how we can do more and to build upon collaboration.”
During Tuesday’s press conference, Geballe brushed off a question on whether he would seek elected office in the future.
“My grandfather told me to never say never, but I’m as close to never on that one as you could possibly — No, I don’t think so,” he said.