David Lehman, state development commissioner, will leave office for his deputy

David Lehman, the state’s commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, in a 2019 file photo.

David Lehman, the state’s commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, in a 2019 file photo.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

NEW HAVEN — David Lehman, the former New York banker named commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development by Gov. Ned Lamont in March of 2019, who helped the governor navigate unemployment relief during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, has resigned from his position overseeing the state's various job training and business programs.

Lehman will be replaced by his top deputy, Alexandra Daum, a real estate expert and investor who in recent years has specialized in local development projects across Connecticut, including brownfield remediation and Opportunity Zones that offer tax breaks for investors.

"This is a place where it's easy to do business. It's easy to get a decision maker on the phone, Daum said.

Lehman, who in March, 2020 switched gears to focusing on the state's effort to cope with the pandemic, had been a partner at investment giant Goldman Sachs, before Lamont talked him into the economic development job near the start of his first term, heading the state's transition from big grants and tax breaks that were the hallmarks of former Gov. Dannel Malloy, to smaller, strategic efforts to address the need for a skilled work force in blue-collar professions like welding and precision manufacturing.

"We created what I think is a fiscally responsible overhaul of business incentives," he said, noting that development borrowing was reduced by 70 percent over three-plus years, saving taxpayers $400 million in interest.

Lamont said there was a national search for a new commissioner around the time Lehman called from his home in Greenwich asking about the job.

"Then one day I got a call from a guy who says 'I'm a Republican from Wall Street and I'd like to give back to the state of Connecticut.' I said to myself 'what could go wrong with that?'"

Officially announced during a late-afternoon Wednesday news conference in the lobby of the Hotel Marcel on Sargent Drive, Lehman's departure is the latest in several top-level departures that are typical for reelected governors whose aides and department heads draw state salaries markedly lower than the private sector, often leave between Election Day and the second inaugural. Lehman will officially step down in January at the start of a new term.

This week, the governor's Chief of Staff Paul Mounds and top legal counsel Nora Dannehy, a former federal prosecutor who helped send John G. Rowland to prison in 2005 on corruption charges, announced they would also be leaving.

Lehman has warned of the need for Connecticut towns to create more-affordable housing opportunities if they are to flourish economically at a time when there are 100,000 job openings statewide but only 50,000 people looking for job opportunities. Lehman looked to support mid-size businesses to grow in the state. Daum started at the DECD around the start of the pandemic, in March, 2020.

In May, Daum helped Lamont announce a $875-million state program aimed at strengthening state neighborhoods and attract better-paying jobs. With Harvard undergraduate and graduate degrees, Daum was involved in residential real estate in northern California, then became the founder and principal of a New Haven-based investor called Field Properties before joining the DECD, where she is also the chief investment officer, seeking public-private partnerships and urban revitalization initiatives.

Lamont's second-term inauguration will occur on Jan. 4, the date that the next General Assembly session will start. 

kdixon@ctpost.com Twitter: @KenDixonCT