Democratic Gov.-elect Ned Lamont has tapped a 17-year-veteran of New Haven’s state legislative delegation to help lead his incoming administration’s transition into power.
At a Thursday afternoon press conference held on the steps of the State Capitol in Hartford, Lamont and Democratic Lieutenant Gov.-elect Susan Bysiewicz announced that Democratic New Haven State Rep. Toni Walker will serve as one of the co-chairs of the Lamont administration’s transition team.
Lamont defeated Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski in Tuesday’s general election by over 37,000 votes, almost 25,000 of which came from the Elm City. (New Haven’s final, official vote count is still not known, thanks to myriad problems with the city’s Election Day tallies.)
The transition team that Walker will help co-chair will spend the next 62 days helping Lamont, a Greenwich businessman with little elected political experience, identify candidates for the state government’s many departments, boards, commissions, and agencies. Lamont’s inauguration as Connecticut’s next governor will take place on Jan. 9.
The other co-chairs of the transition team are outgoing state Attorney General George Jepsen, Eastern Connecticut State University Professor Elsa Núñez, and Year Up President Garrett Moran. The transition team’s president is Ryan Drajewicz, a Bridgewater Associates management associate who used to work for former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd.
David Salinas, co-founder of New Haven’s DISTRICT tech hub, was named to serve on Lamont’s business advisory council. David Scheer of the New Haven-based pharmaceutical company Achillion was also named to the business advisory council.
(Click here for a story by Christine Stuart about the full announcement about the transition team.)
Toni Walker, an assistant principal in charge of grant writing and budgeting for New Haven Adult Education, has represented New Haven’s 93rd General Assembly District seat in the state General Assembly since 2001. Her district includes sections of Beaver Hills, West Rock, Dwight, and the Hill.
A 17-year-veteran of the city’s Hartford delegation, Walker currently serves as the House chair of the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee, which oversees all state financial appropriations and operating budgets. For years, Walker’s co-chair on the committee was then State Sen. and current Mayor Toni Harp.
Walker also serves on the state legislature’s Judiciary Committee, and is the former House chair of the Human Services Committee. She has long worked on issues of juvenile criminal justice reform, helping pass legislation in 2007 that allowed 16 and 17-year-olds to be treated as juveniles in Connecticut courts.
“I’ve had a lot of experience in some of the avenues that I hope will be utilized in this appointment,” Walker said about the knowledge of state government that she will bring to the transition team. “I’ve always been able to sit down and talk with Ned. Every time I’ve worked with him, it’s always been in a collaborative manner. That’s something that Connecticut needs desperately going forward.”
Now that Connecticut Democrats have a supermajority in both the state House and the state Senate, Walker said, she hopes the legislature will not face the same type of partisan gridlock that it faced last session when state Republicans and Democrats each held 18 seats a piece in the state Senate.
That gridlock, she said, put the Medicare Savings Program and the Renters Rebate program for seniors in jeopardy during the crafting of a final state budget, and also led to the shuttering of the state Legislative Commission on Aging.
“The Medicare Savings Plan and the Renters’ Rebate and the Commission on Aging,” she said, “those were all Democratic initiatives.” She said Connecticut residents should look out for more government action in support of the state’s elderly, youth, and most vulnerable populations now that Democrats are firmly in control of the state legislature.
Walker, a trained social worker who was born in Oklahoma and spent her earliest years in North Carolina, is the daughter of the late reverend and New Haven civil rights leader Edwin “Doc” Edmonds. She and her family fled from North Carolina to New Haven when she was just 5 years old after the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross on her family’s lawn in response to her father organizing voter registration with the NAACP.