Gov. Ned Lamont announced Tuesday the coming departures of his chief of staff Paul Mounds Jr. and legal counsel Nora Dannehy in the first staffing changes as the administration of newly-reelected Democrat prepares for a second term.
Mounds, whose tenure as chief of staff began just before the COVID-19 pandemic, will be replaced by current policy director, Jonathan Dach. Dannehy, a former federal prosecutor who took over as legal counsel last March, will be succeeded by Natalie Braswell, who is currently serving as state comptroller.
The staffing changes will occur when Lamont is sworn in for a second term in January.
The administration announced the changes in a press release and a subsequent press conference in the state Capitol’s Hall of Flags Tuesday morning. During the event, Lamont praised both Mounds and Dannehy, who did not attend the event.
Lamont said Mounds took over for his first chief of staff, Ryan Drajewicz, about a week before the first cases of COVID appeared in Connecticut.
“He hasn’t stopped since,” Lamont said. “What he meant in terms of bringing … all the different pieces of state government together, working as one, working with the hospitals, working with the legislature. He knows this building, this building knows him. I couldn’t have done it without him.”
Mounds, who also served in former Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration, said his departure had been long planned but offered no immediate details about his future plans. Mounds praised Connecticut’s state workforce.
“A lot of people don’t know the names of the people who serve but I want everyone to know that as someone who is the son of a state employee, that state employees work very hard, they put their heart on the line to serve,” Mounds said.
Lamont and Mounds expressed confidence in Dach’s ability to take on the position.
“I think a lot of you know Jonny Dach. He’s been my right hand since the first campaign, he’s been our deputy chief of staff,” Lamont said. “He has worked very closely with Paul. He’s gotten to know this building very well. This building has gotten to know him… I never say you’re not going to miss a beat because every chief of staff, every general counsel is different but I have a high degree of confidence Johnny’s going to be able to pick up where Paul left off.”
Dach said he was optimistic about the future and quoted President Joe Biden, saying “it’s never a good bet to bet against America.”
“Over the past four years Governor Lamont and his team have proved it’s never a good bet to bet against Connecticut either,” Dach said, “and in the next four years we’re going to double down on that and continue delivering fiscal stability and more growth and opportunity.”
Lamont said Dannehy declined to participate in the event because she felt “her job was to be in the background.” Dannehy has had a long legal career both in and out of government, having served as a federal prosecutor in the corruption case against former Gov. John G. Rowland and more recently she assisted Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation of the 2016 election.
“I gotta tell you, she was not in the background for me,” Lamont said. “And like a lot of good leaders, she also thought about the transition. So early on we thought and knew that Natalie Braswell was the person.”
Tuesday marked the second time Lamont has tapped Braswell for a key post in state government. Late last year, he appointed her state comptroller following former Comptroller Kevin Lembo’s health-related resignation. She leaves that post in January when Comptroller-elect Sean Scanlon assumes the office.
Braswell described her year as state comptroller as an often-exhausting “whirlwind.”
“But it’s only strengthened my commitment to our state and my sincere belief that better days are ahead,” Braswell said. “Governor Lamont and his administration have been great partners during my tenure as we work to lower health care costs, support workers, address inequalities across the state including in state government. I’m looking forward to continuing those efforts and returning to my role as attorney.”
Lamont told reporters there would be more staffing changes within his ranks as the administration moves into its second term.
“It’s been four years. A lot of folks have been with us for quite awhile and we made a deal. I needed folks at least through the election and people have honored that and many have been working 24/7 and are looking to make a change,” Lamont said. “We’ll be making other announcements in the next few days and the next few weeks. We’ve been thinking about this. It’s going to be a smooth transition.”