Gov. Ned Lamont will name Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton as commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services. The nomination means that Boughton’s tenure as mayor will come to an end during his 10th term if the state legislature signs off.
It’s a rare case of a governor working outside his political party’s comfort zone, and an even rarer case of hiring a political opponent to work in one of the highest profile state jobs, as Connecticut’s tax man.
But since Boughton’s loss in the 2018 Republican primary for governor and Lamont’s winning the general election against Bob Stefanowski, Lamont and Danbury’s longest-serving mayor have been on cordial terms, especially during the summer’s COVID-19 flareup in Danbury that turned into a preview of what the entire state is facing.
“Mark has earned a reputation as being a dedicated public servant and hard worker, and his experience as mayor provides him with a considerable amount of knowledge on the inner workings of government, particularly when it comes to the impacts certain measures can have on the local level, where they are closest to home,” Lamont said in a statement Friday morning. “I firmly believe that a bigger table, open door, and creative solutions will help produce the best outcomes for the people of our state, regardless of someone’s political affiliation. I thank Mark for making the decision to join our administration and I look forward to having him serve in this important capacity.”
Boughton, who was unavailable for comment when the news broke Thursday night, said in a statement Friday that he was “looking forward to leading the department and bringing my experience and expertise to the State of Connecticut.”
“My dedication to public service hasn’t changed,” he said. “After years serving one of Connecticut’s largest cities, I am excited about the chance to serve the people of the State of Connecticut in the Lamont administration.”
The initial reaction from the General Assembly’s Democratic leadership was positive.
“We applaud Governor Lamont for his appointment of Mayor Boughton as Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney of New Haven and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff of Norwalk, in a statement. “The people of Connecticut benefit when state government can work together in a bipartisan way, especially in the midst of a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. Mayor Boughton is an seasoned government professional whose experience includes service as a state representative.”
Duff and Looney serve on the General Assembly’s Executive and Legislative and Nominations Committee, which vets nominations from the governor. If the nominee is confirmed, only one chamber of the legislature votes. In the event of a vacancy, such as now, Lamont has to have a nominee submitted at the beginning of the session, which starts Jan. 6.
The news of the nomination was first reported by political blogger Kevin Rennie, who is a columnist for the Hartford Courant and co-host of WFSB’s “Face the State” with Duby McDowell.
Boughton, 56, was elected to his 10th term as the city’s mayor in 2019.
The Republican municipal leader ran for governor three times, most recently in 2018 on a platform that included phasing out the state’s income tax. Despite his party affiliation, Boughton has maintained a close working relationship with the Lamont administration.
He is scheduled to give the State of the City address Friday. According to the City Charter, the president of the City Council becomes mayor until the next municipal election in the event of a vacancy. Republican Joe Cavo, City Council president, could not be reached for comment Thursday night. The council would then appoint the president’s replacement for the remainder of his term.
Boughton will replace John Biello, who has been acting tax commissioner since Scott Jackson left the post to work for New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker. The position pays $155,000 annually plus $35,000 in fringe benefits.
In 2017, doctors removed a benign tumor from Boughton’s brain, from which he made a recovery.
Boughton is known beyond the Hat City’s boundaries for his social media antics.
Last summer, Boughton worked to have the city’s sewer plant named after comedian John Oliver of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.” The host included a rant about Danbury in his show, promising anyone from the city “a standing to come get a thrashing from John Oliver — children included — (expletive) you.”
Boughton responded with a video in which he emerged from a Port-a-Potty on the grounds of Danbury’s $110 million sewer plant, and said the city would rename the plant after Oliver.
“Why?” Boughton said in the tape. “Because it’s full of crap, just like you, John.” Oliver responded by offering a donation of $55,000 to local charities if the city actually renamed the plant after him.
The deal went through, and Oliver visited Danbury in October for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in honor of the re-naming.
Most recently, Boughton, dressed in a bright yellow chicken outfit, ran from Danbury City Hall to the library through the heart of downtown with Taylor O’Brien, Danbury’s public relations coordinator, who was dressed in a unicorn costume. The act was part of a wager between Boughton and O’Brien to see who could raise the most donations to local food banks.
Beyond light-hearted jokes, Boughton has hosted regular live briefings on the pandemic on Facebook, answering questions from residents as they come in.
“This caught a lot of people by surprise,” said Danbury council minority leader Paul Rotello, a Democrat, disappointed he had not heard about it from the mayor himself.
“But if it's true I wish him well,” he added. “I hope he has a good future in the Lamont administration, and we need smart people working for the state, and he’s a pretty smart guy.”
Boughton is a graduate of Central Connecticut State University where he got his bachelor’s degree in education and American history and Western Connecticut State University where he earned his master’s in educational psychology. He also served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1983 to 1989 and later taught at Danbury High as a social studies teacher. He served as a state representative for the 138th Assembly District beginning in 1998 and was elected to a second term before being elected mayor.
Reporter Julia Perkins contributed to this report.