AP NEWS

Finch contender for top DEEP job

November 29, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — Connecticut’s largest city will not see its mayor sworn in as governor in January.

But how about a former mayor taking over the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection?

Bill Finch, ousted from City Hall in 2015 by Joe Ganim, is a contender for DEEP Commissioner, according to sources.

Finch was not just a vocal advocate for conservation during his eight years as mayor, but, prior to that, as a state Senator and co-chairman of the legislature’s environment committee. One source went so far as to state of Finch’s chances: “I think it’s his to lose, to be honest with you.”

The final decision is up to Governor-elect Ned Lamont of Greenwich, who had Finch’s support when he faced and defeated Ganim in this summer’s statewide gubernatorial primary. Finch also supported Lamont’s failed campaign for governor in 2010.

“I think the world of Bill Finch,” Lamont told Hearst Connecticut Media in a brief phone interview Wednesday. But, Lamont continued, he and his transition team are “far from” making any decisions.

Though Finch could not be reached for comment, a former spokesman and close friend, Brett Broesder, in a statement said given Finch’s background “as a nationally recognized leader on creating green jobs, beating back climate change, developing clean energy and protecting the environment, it’s far from shocking that his name is being thrown around in speculative conversations about who might serve the incoming administration in a post related to these issues.”

Broesder still works with Finch. When Bridgeport’s Discovery Museum and Planetarium hired Finch as its executive director nearly a year ago, Broesder was brought aboard as a communications, marketing and advertising consultant.

Broesder is also among the Finch allies with good access to the incoming governor. He campaigned for Lamont’s running mate, lieutenant governor-elect Susan Bysiewicz. Ex-Finch Chief-of-Staff Adam Wood is close with Lamont. And Tom McCarthy, Bridgeport’s former City Council president, and state Rep. Christopher Rosario are part of Lamont’s transition team.

The Only in Bridgeport website recently reported that Lamont had gone so far as to approach a key Bridgeport political leader — and one who has had a complicated relationship with Finch — about hiring the former mayor: “Word is governor-elect Ned Lamont floated the idea to (Bridgeport) Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa. ... Testa, according to sources, said it was fine.”

As the long-time head of Bridgeport’s dominant political party, Testa worked with Finch. But Testa is much closer to Ganim, who was mayor from 1991 to 2003 and beat Finch in the Democrats’ 2015 mayoral primary.

“I had a cup of coffee with Mario a week or two ago,” Lamont told Hearst. Did Finch’s name come up? “I can’t remember.”

Doing what’s best

Finch was known and praised for his efforts as mayor to not just promote conservation and protection of the environment, but in working to lure companies involved in those goals to Bridgeport to help the local economy and increase the tax base.

Voters in 2015 seemed to care more about Ganim’s focus on improving public safety and holding down taxes. Still, Ganim eventually hired state Rep. Joe Gresko of Stratford as a part-time aide for green energy and economic development projects.

Gresko, a vice-chairman of the legislature’s environment committee, on Wednesday said it would obviously be advantageous for Bridgeport to have Finch running DEEP: “I had heard his name was tossed around and I think his passion can’t be matched.”

One complication for Finch could be the commute to the DEEP offices in Hartford. When he began work at the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport, Finch, who had been working in New York, said, “I’ve missed a lot of things at my kids’ schools. Now I’ll be here.”

As for what Finch’s current employer, the Discovery Museum, thinks about the talk that its still new executive director may already be moving on, Broesder offered a response. First he said that Finch is “honored to serve as executive director” and “thrilled” that Lamont and Bysiewicz support the type of science, technology, engineering and math learning the museum provides.

Broesder also provided a statement from Tom Vos, chairman of the museum’s board. Vos said he was “not aware of any overtures that have been made to Bill by the incoming governor” but also “not surprised” about the speculation.

“I’m interested in doing what’s best for the Discovery Museum and serving its mission of giving more kids access to exciting, hands-on learning opportunities that, in turn, help prepare them in subject areas critical to obtaining the jobs of tomorrow,” Vos said. “Bill’s helping us do just that. And I believe his current position gives him a unique opportunity to have a strong impact on STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education in Bridgeport and Fairfield County.”

AP RADIO
Update hourly