Word from the state Capitol Tuesday is that state Sen. Don DeFronzo (D-New Britain) will be appointed to a key position in the new Malloy administration. Rampant speculation is that Governor-elect Dan Malloy will choose DeFronzo for the post of commissioner of the state department of transportation although another spot is possible. DeFronzo is highly respected by those on both sides of the aisle and has substantial administrative as well as legislative experience. Sources at the Capitol tell The Hanging Shad that DeFronzo and Malloy transition team members talked Tuesday.
Malloy’s consideration of DeFronzo is also another sign that the governor-elect will look to those who supported him early and often for appointments or input. This group includes DeFronzo, state Sen. Andrew McDonald (D-Stamford) and state Senate Majority Leader Marty Looney (D-New Haven).
Senator DeFronzo is co-chair of the general assembly’s transportation committee and serves on the finance, revenue and bonding, environment and program review and investigations committees. He is also Senate chair of the legislature’s general bonding subcommittee.
Importantly, DeFronzo served as Senate chair of the government administration & elections committee (GAE) when the historic campaign finance reform (CFR) measures were passed. It was a time of intense negotiation between the Senate and House while Gov. Rell continued to move the goal posts. (Although she often receives credit for backing campaign finance reform, the fact is, she vetoed the first version and just this year, vetoed the “fix” of the bill designed to withstand judicial review.) It was DeFonzo’s calm demeanor and meticulous review of the material that made CFR possible.
DeFronzo’s administrative and managerial experience is also attractive to Malloy. DeFronzo was the executive director of the Human Resources Agency of New Britain where he was responsible for an $8 million budget, 215 employees and such community action programs as Head Start and Jobs First as well as programs in energy assistance, day care, lead abatement, health education and youth recreation.
As the mayor of New Britain from 1989 to 1993, Senator DeFronzo led the city through the severe recession of the early 1990s and managed the city’s $130 million annual budget, paying particular attention to the city’s fiscal challenges.
The state department of transportation is a challenging post to say the least. The department has been marred by such screw-ups as the rebuilding of the stretch of I-84 through Waterbury and Cheshire as well as the arrests of some department employees for various offenses. Malloy likely sees DeFronzo as no-nonsense manager who would instill public confidence in the department.