Josh Geballe, the face of Lamont's pandemic response, to leave administration
The face of Connecticut's pandemic response is leaving Gov. Ned Lamont's administration.
Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe has announced he will no longer be Lamont's right-hand man.
Lamont has held dozens of news briefings since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. At most of them, he has turned to Geballe for critical details.
Geballe is leaving the administration for a job at Yale, heading a new entrepreneurship program.
"It was something of a dream job for me, I think, for the longer term," said Geballe.
Connecticut has one of the nation's highest vaccination rates and had one of the lowest infection rates until the Omicron surge. Lamont says Geballe made it happen.
"It's been a little like a war with all the incoming this last couple of years. And if you're going to be in a foxhole, you want to be in a foxhole with Josh Geballe," said Lamont.
Taking over is Geballe's deputy, Michelle Gilman. Largely unknown to the public, Gilman has played a key role behind the scenes, including securing half a million COVID tests just after Christmas, when the state's original order fell through.
"Do you know why the tests showed up that next day? Her," said Lamont's Chief of Staff Paul Mounds.
Gilman insists she's ready to take over.
"We're still far ahead of the curve nationally across our different age brackets. And now we have the pediatric vaccines that hopefully we'll be able to roll out for our youngest children," said Gilman.
Lamont touted Gilman's skills Tuesday.
"She's been on the front lines of COVID, you know, working with Josh. She's been right there making sure that when our hospitals were being overwhelmed, they had the extra surge capacity," said Lamont.
Gilman not only inherits the COVID response, but also must manage a potential wave of state worker retirements later this year. Almost a quarter of employees are eligible for retirement because of a deal previous Gov. Dannel Malloy reached with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, or SEBAC.
Geballe became somewhat of a celebrity at these news conferences. He said Tuesday he's not interested in running for office, but he also said to "never say never."
Gilman is a veteran of the tech world who joined the Lamont administration in 2019. In addition to managing the state's COVID response, she has also quietly modernized state government computer systems.