As he prepares for second term, Gov. Lamont announces staff departures, weighs extending CT gas tax holiday

Photo of Julia Bergman
Gov. Ned Lamont announces the departure of his chief of staff Paul Mounds, right, and general counsel counsel, Nora Dannehy, Tuesday at a press conference at the state Capitol in Hartford. Natalie Braswell, far left, who has served as interim Comptroller, will succeed Dannehy. Jonathan Dach, second from left, deputy chief of staff, will succeed Mounds. 

Gov. Ned Lamont announces the departure of his chief of staff Paul Mounds, right, and general counsel counsel, Nora Dannehy, Tuesday at a press conference at the state Capitol in Hartford. Natalie Braswell, far left, who has served as interim Comptroller, will succeed Dannehy. Jonathan Dach, second from left, deputy chief of staff, will succeed Mounds. 

Julia Bergman // Hearst Connecticut Media

Fresh off his landslide victory, Gov. Ned Lamont is announcing key personnel changes as he prepares for a second term focused on economic growth, with his first order of business to extend the state’s gas tax holiday.  

Two of the governor’s most trusted advisors, his chief of staff, Paul Mounds, Jr., and his general counsel, Nora Dannehy, will leave the administration at start of his second term on Jan. 4. The departures had long been planned as had their successors, but Lamont said the transitions, which oft come during the post-election period, are “a little bittersweet for me because we have a lot to celebrate over the last four years.”

Jonathan Dach, the deputy chief of staff, will succeed Mounds, and Natalie Braswell, an attorney whom Lamont appointed last year to finish out Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo’s term when he resigned due to health reasons, will succeed Dannehy.

As he prepares to depart the administration, Mounds will be charged with hashing out a plan to extend the suspension of the state’s 25-cent-per-gallon gas tax before it expires on Dec. 1. The governor said Tuesday he wants to call the General Assembly into a special legislative session to address the looming deadline.  

“I don't think we want to have a cliff with the gas starting on December 1,” the governor said. “I think we ought to have a special session before that.”

Lamont said he also wants to continue free transit bus service “as long as the mayors want to keep that going.” As for the gas tax, Lamont said he’d like to see the relief extended, but start phasing out the cut over the next four or five months, lowering it from 25 cents as time goes on. 

“Right now, it's costing us about a million dollars a day so we can't keep that going forever,” he said. “We're trying to find a way that we phase down.”

Lamont said he expected the special session to be limited to the gas tax and no other issues such as concern over the prices of home heating oil. Mounds plans to meet with legislative leaders later this week to begin discussing an agenda and timeline for a special session. Since state lawmakers are not due to resume business until 2023, the governor will have to issue a declaration to call them into special session.

The governor said Tuesday that more staffing changes will be announced in the coming days and that his administration would soon start rolling out a more detailed agenda for his next term. Lamont's economic advisor, David Lehman, is among those expected to leave for other professional opportunities.

“We'll be making other announcements over the next few days and within the next few weeks,” Lamont said. “We've been thinking about this. It's going to be a smooth transition.”

Both Mounds and Dannehy played key roles in the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which upended their usual responsibilities and reshaped their jobs. 

Dannehy said at the outset that she would serve in the role for a “limited” period of time but stayed for “a lot longer because I asked her to,” Lamont said. She will be joining a private law practice, according to the Connecticut Mirror

Mounds said he’s not sure what he'll do next but that he doesn’t plan to go far. He thanked the governor for “giving a kid from East Hartford the ability to serve his state.”