George Jepsen, Connecticut Attorney General. George Jepsen, Connecticut attorney general. Photo: Robert Storace/ALM

As Connecticut prepares to swear in Democrat Ned Lamont as its new governor in January, outgoing Attorney General George Jepsen will play an important role in that transition.

Jepsen, a good friend of Lamont’s since the 1990s, was named co-chairman Thursday of the bipartisan 19-member steering committee that will help Lamont with the transition leading up to the Jan. 9 inauguration. Democratic State Rep. Toni Walker of New Haven is the other co-chair of the committee.

Each member of the steering committee, which is comprised of politicians, labor leaders, several attorneys and others, will have certain priorities in helping Lamont ease into the role of governor. Lamont will succeed Democrat Dannel Malloy.

For his part, the 63-year-old Jepsen said he’ll give input and recommendations on filling three key jobs for Lamont: Office of Policy and Management secretary, chief of staff and general counsel to the governor.

“The first order of business is to build the most important positions in state government because that will help drive decisions and choices in policy areas,” Jepsen told the Connecticut Law Tribune Friday. Jepsen said he’d help in vetting and recruiting talent, and will refer names and resumes of people interested in the posts to the Lamont team. “Names have been under discussion,” Jepsen said.

While the budget is the key issue facing Lamont, Jepsen said “there are also other issues that will need addressing in the earlier months of the New Year.” Jepsen said he hopes to play a role in getting “the senior staff up to speed on those issues.”

Up front, Jepsen said, is gaming. Connecticut has two casinos and, Jepsen said, “gaming policy related to the casinos will be a major issue before the Legislature in the coming year. It’s an extremely complex issue with a lot of moving parts. The senior staff needs to understand the nuances and complexity of the issue. I will give advice when asked.”

Jepsen first met Lamont in the late 1970s, but the two became close in the 1990s when they were both running as Democrats for state senate.

“I was a candidate for state senate in the Stamford area and he was a candidate for state senate from the Greenwich area and parts of North Stamford,” Jepsen said. “We went to a lot of events together and we definitely got to know each other through that. We’ve been friends ever since.”

Jepsen said the cross-section of people on Lamont’s steering committee from both parties, including New Britain Republican Mayor Erin Stewart, is evidence that Lamont is “very inclusive. He wants to hear all points of views before making a decision.”

Jepsen continued: “He is not afraid to make the hard choices that need to be made in Connecticut, even if it costs him politically. He is in the stage in his life and development that getting it right is the legacy he wants.”

Jepsen said Lamont first raised the idea of him being on the steering committee a few months ago. “It’s an honor and a privilege,” Jepsen said. “You are really in a position to make a difference. I have been in elected office for 24 years and have been active in public life for the better part of four decades. This is where the action is.”