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An Exit Interview With Governor Dannel Malloy

Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public Radio
Governor Dannel Malloy

Dannel Malloy’s eight-year run as Connecticut’s 88th governor is coming to an end. On January 9, Governor-elect Ned Lamont will take his place. Connecticut Public Radio’s Colin McEnroe talked one-on-one with the exiting governor on his legacy, how the Sandy Hook tragedy profoundly impacted him, and what he’s planning to do next.

Listen to the entire interview between McEnroe and Malloy, which originally aired on January 3, 2019, on The Colin McEnroe Show.

Note: This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

On never expecting two full terms...

Governor Malloy: Well, listen I didn't pull any punches the first four years and I didn't pull any punches the last four years. You know, I have this adage that my mother burned into my mind: that you have an obligation to leave the world a better place for you having lived in it needed to be fulfilled to the highest extent possible and that's what I did.

Malloy on his legacy...

The thing I'm proudest of is that we put together an unbelievable team who stayed around -- over half of them -- into the eighth year and there were no silos left. You know, we took a multidimensional, multidepartment approach to all of the big issues that we took on. So there was never one commissioner quarterbacking anything. This was a group of equals that worked together to bring about unbelievable change.

So you can talk about corrections reform or criminal justice reform or education reform or health reform or housing reform or transportation reform. And every one of those issues was represented, not by a single commissioner, but multiple commissioners who were pulling in the same direction. That's what I'm proudest about.

And I wouldn't leave out having really tamed the state's state employee pension problem and having been honest about that and told the truth about it for the first time in Connecticut history. I think that a lot of what we did around that issue has been purposefully misconstrued by folks who wanted to run on the belief that we hadn't hadn't done what we did. In fact, the Pew Charitable Trust did a stress test on our state pension and said we passed with flying colors, and the things that we did and undertook to do have put the state in a much better situation.

We made some limited progress on the teachers, and I'm unhappy that we weren't able to straighten out the state teacher pension problem. But I have no doubt that that's going to be undertaken and accomplished in part because we raised the issue.

Malloy on his critics...

Yeah, it's frustrating. You know, there are a number of factors that go into that and not the least of which is that people lie about it. Every candidate who ran in the last election, primaries or final election, at some point said Connecticut was bleeding jobs. Well, I'm going to leave office with the state having well over 100,000 more jobs since I became governor. That's the reality. And so let's put that in perspective. Jodi Rell lost jobs 36,000. John Rowland in the space of 10 years saw the creation of 63,000 jobs. Lowell Weicker lost jobs. In eight years we've seen the creation of over a hundred thousand jobs and a decrease in all forms of government employment which I would argue, by the way, is not a bad thing.

Credit Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public
Connecticut Public
Governor Malloy.

On handling the Sandy Hook tragedy...

It's a day the likes of which you can't prepare for. Although, I think because I had been mayor of Stamford and had experienced a lot of deaths on 9/11 in my community, I was perhaps better prepared than other people might have been. A couple of things stick out. I asked where the selectwoman was because it appeared to me that no one was in charge -- not passing judgment on anybody. But, you know, we have a lot of state police, and we have a lot of local police officers, and so I had a conversation with a first selectwoman. If you want to be in charge, that's okay. We do have a lot of state troopers here. We've got a bigger force. If you want us to take charge I'll do that. Tell me what you want me to do. I remember that outside the firehouse and we came to an agreement that the state should play the lead role. And probably within an hour and a half or two hours, I realized that you know that there were a great many fatalities. And I began the discussion with the law enforcement personnel about when we would inform the families of what had happened.

And you know I've told this story before. The protocol for that kind of information exchange under normal circumstances would require an identification of the deceased before you would tell a loved one that their loved one had passed, and I actually regret having waited for that time to pass. I regret that I didn't immediately overrule the protocol.

We did another really astounding thing: we assigned each family a police officer or trooper that would be with them through at least through the funerals. And you know, that's now become, in these mass casualty situations, a best practice that really we created; I created there. I wanted, rather than having a different police officer talking to every family member that was there getting information, I wanted them each to know that they had someone that they could rely on, someone that that would be communicating with them and would protect them and their family.

On handling Hurricane Sandy...

I think it's going to get worse every year, not better, because water levels are rising and rising rapidly. I mean, one of the pieces of legislation we got in this last session was to require new maps to be drawn up to reflect what happens over the next 50 years. That'll be a big plus for planning purposes, but it also means that a lot of folks are going to realize suddenly that they should lift their house and not wait for it to be washed away or that our government shouldn't allow things to be replaced or built in certain neighborhoods. It may even have a lasting impact on the tax base of some of these communities. All of that needs to be filtered in and taken into consideration if we're going to keep people safe and recover from other challenges.

On what will be his next big challenge...

I am looking for the next big challenge. You know, I'm finally grown up and I need a real job. I bought myself some time. I was recruited by a couple of colleges to teach and I got a very big fellowship at my alma mater, Boston College Law School. I owe a lot to [the school], and the idea that I can go back and teach a couple of days a week and extend the period of time for me to make a decision about what I'm going to do next is a is a nice circumstance for me. But I'm looking for another big challenge.

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