Daniel Arsenault, a former aide to Gov. Malloy, dies at 31

Kenneth R. Gosselin, Hartford Courant

Daniel A. Arsenault, a rising star in state government who quickly earned widespread respect under the Capitol’s gold dome in Hartford, died Christmas Eve after an accident. He was 31.

“Heartbreaking,” Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, wrote on a Facebook tribute page. “Dan was a great guy, committed to making Connecticut a more just place. He did so much good — and we all should feel cheated that he didn’t have the chance to do more.”

The circumstances of the accident were not immediately known Wednesday, but the Office of the Chief State’s Medical Examiner is investigating.

In a brief, but full career, he served as assistant to then-chief of staff Mark Ojakian in the administration of former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, beginning in 2012. Arsenault later went on to serve as legislative liaison at the state Department of Housing where he promoted affordable housing initiatives. In 2019, he was hired by the Boston-based O’Neill and Associates lobbying and public relations firm as they expanded operations into Hartford.

In an interview Wednesday, Ojakian, soon to be retired as president of the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities system, said Arsenault quickly developed a reputation of being both professional and approachable in his two years as Ojakian’s assistant.

“That’s a delicate balance sometimes because if you are overly friendly people will think that you are not professional but he was able to navigate that very well,” Ojakian said.

“He wasn’t entitled,” Ojakian said. “Sometimes in the political world you come across people who feel entitled to things. He was just very respectful and wanted an opportunity to work with me and grow professionally but willing to do whatever needed to be done.”

A Facebook tribute and donation page to raise funds for funeral expenses showed the depth of Arsenault’s popularity: So far it has drawn nearly 450 donations — everyone from Malloy and former bosses to old colleagues and friends. The page raised $27,500 well over the goal of $20,000 with two days to go.

Born in Leominster, Mass., he was a graduate of the University of Hartford, where he obtained a dual bachelor’s degree in rhetoric and professional writing and psychology, graduating magna cum laude with honors of distinction.

In the community, Arsenault was on the board of Hands on Hartford, a social service non-profit that serves Hartford’s economically challenged residents with food, housing, and health. He was also an advisory board member of the Governor M. Jodi Rell Center for Public Service at the University of Hartford.

Arsenault enjoyed the outdoors, liked to travel and play golf.

Besides his parents, Kevin J. and Paula J. (Fournier) Arsenault of Gardner, Mass., Arsenault is survived by his brother, Nathan T. Arsenault of Hubbardston, Mass.

Memorial contributions may be made to Hands on Hartford, 55 Bartholomew Ave, Hartford, 06106. in memory of Daniel A. Arsenault.

Contact Kenneth R. Gosselin at kgosselin@courant.com.