Gov.’s Chief Defender Departs
Roy Occhiogrosso, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s senior communication adviser, will be leaving the administration at the end of this year, the governor announced Monday.
Mark Ojakian, Malloy’s chief of staff, said the administration will not be replacing Occhiogrosso whose departure will help the office consolidate amidst budget cuts. Last year Occhiogrosso made $160,000.
“We’ll be redefining roles and responsibilities. We in the governor’s office are also having to make budget cuts,” Ojakian said.
Occhiogrosso’s announcement comes as the Malloy administration and lawmakers begin talks to implement potentially painful cuts in order to close this year’s budget deficit, pegged at between $365 and $415 million. He said the timing wasn’t a factor in his decision to leave.
“I think every day is a critical time here. I’m not sure that there’s been a time in last two years where you couldn’t have said that,” Occhiogrosso said.
Following the state Bond Commission meeting, Malloy praised his top aide’s dedication. Occhiogrosso worked on Malloy’s successful campaign for governor and worked on his unsuccessful 2006 campaign.
“We’ve been at this together for some time, actually almost on a daily basis for six years. He is someone that I have relied on,” Malloy said.
The governor said Occhiogrosso initially signed on to the position for one year but agreed to stay on for an additional year.
Occhiogrosso said he had mixed feelings about leaving. He said he’d been with Malloy a long time and enjoyed his job but felt it was time to move on.
“I personally think people tend to stay in these jobs too long sometimes. I had a great time. Time to go do something else,” he said.
Within the administration, Occhiogrosso often served as Malloy’s chief defender. Over the past two years he has earned a reputation for aggressively pushing back against critics of Malloy both through the press and on social media.
Ojakian described Occhiogrosso as “pragmatic, and strategic.” He represented the administration’s viewpoint very directly.
“Everyone has different styles and that was Roy’s style. Definitely one that was appreciated by all who worked with him,” Ojakian said.
Ojakian said it’s likely he will pick up some of Occhiogrosso’s responsibilities in the communications area. Other responsibilities will go to Andrew Doba, Malloy’s top spokesman, he said.
“I think Andrew Doba is clearly going to have to take on more responsibilities. We’re still deciding who is going to do what, where,” Ojakian said. “. . . We’ll make it work. We’ll have the same directness, the same candor, the same message. It’ll just be delivered in a different way by a different person.”
Ojakian said he did not plan to take up Occhiogrosso’s habit of arguing with Republicans over policy on Twitter.
“I don’t know how to Twitter. So that’s probably a good thing for everybody,” he said.
Occhiogrosso did not say why he had suddenly decided to announce his departure, nor did he say what he plans on doing after the end of the year beyond taking a vacation. He was not yet ready to speculate whether he would be working for Malloy again if he ran for re-election. But the longtime political consultant said his next job will likely be a political one.
“Politics is always in my blood at some level but doing it here, in this capacity — time to go do something different. We’ll see,” he said.