Comptroller Kevin Lembo ArchiveBiography
Kevin Lembo resigned from office on Dec. 31, 2021 during his third term as Connecticut state comptroller.
Having never previously run for any elected office, Lembo had an unconventional path to public service. He spent decades working as a public health advocate before his first successful election for state comptroller in 2010. Lembo was the first openly gay statewide elected official in Connecticut.
Lembo was the first in his family to attend college after growing up in a middle-class working neighborhood in Paterson, NJ where his parents and grandparents made a living in the manufacturing industry and in clerical positions. Those formative years had a lasting influence on his public policy positions as he remembers his family's experiences living through boom-and-bust cycles and work-related injuries that, at one point, cost them their sole source of income and health care.
"My parents were people who did everything they were 'supposed' to do - work hard, put food on the table and a roof over our heads - but at times, like many people today, they found themselves unable to fully support their family,” Lembo said. "As a result of my own personal experiences, I'm a firm believer in public programs that help lift people up - but do so in ways that are responsible and financially sustainable."
As a young adult, Comptroller Lembo was first compelled to public health advocacy as he was watching people die in the early years of the AIDS pandemic.
"Our government wasn't doing anything, the media wasn’t covering it - and people were dying," Lembo said.
Comptroller Lembo later continued his college education to refine his skills in health policy and government administration and has since worked in the private, public and non-profit sectors.
He served as program director for an AIDS education, prevention and primary care program and helped develop an innovative long-term home care program for all in New York that successfully prevented premature and permanent admissions to nursing facilities.
Comptroller Lembo was ultimately drawn to Connecticut and now lives in Guilford with his spouse of more than 30 years, Charles Frey. They have three sons.
Lembo and Frey chose Connecticut as their home for its quality of life, location, diversity and overall potential. After serving as assistant comptroller, Lembo was appointed Connecticut’s first state Healthcare Advocate in 2004. He subsequently spent years helping thousands of residents navigate the complexities of the health care system; advocated for patients denied coverage for treatment; and returned millions of dollars to consumers.
Beginning with his career as an advocate, Lembo always had an appreciation for the power and necessity of data in driving policy decisions - and has often been frustrated by the lack of data-driven policies in government.
After years of banging on the door of government for one public health related issue after another, Comptroller Lembo decided that he could more effectively influence public policy by pushing through government's door and holding it open on the other side. So he ran for statewide office.
Comptroller Lembo used his position as administrator of the state health plan - serving approximately 200,000 public employees and retirees - to develop innovative preventive care and wellness programs, reduce costs and improve care quality. Lembo acted quickly to protect the state plan and employees from the outrageous costs of medically unnecessary and unregulated compound drugs following a sudden and questionable surge in compound prescriptions. His action immediately curbed these questionable practices.
As the state's chief fiscal guardian, he used his office to serve as an independent voice in reporting on the state’s financial and economic outlook. With an emphasis on finding common ground across sectors and politics, Lembo developed and implemented several lasting fiscal policy initiatives with common goals: taming Connecticut's revenue volatility and achieving financial stability and predictability.
Those initiatives include a law that reformed Connecticut's Budget Reserve Fund (“Rainy Day Fund”) - building the state's reserves, while ensuring that Connecticut only spends what it can reasonably afford. Relying on data and actuarial best practices, Comptroller Lembo developed a pension funding reform plan to help make pension payments more predictable and manageable over time.
Comptroller Lembo has been hailed by advocacy groups and the media as a "champion of transparency" for his efforts to promote public access to vital state financial information. His open government initiatives include "Open Connecticut" - an online hub of state financial data that simplifies access to real-time state financial information. Lembo also successfully advocated for greater openness surrounding hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development initiatives that resulted in the creation of a searchable electronic database for state economic assistance and tax credits to businesses.
As a member of the state bond commission, Comptroller Lembo advocated for an economic development strategy that emphasized infrastructure investment - devoting state resources to roads, bridges, ports, public transportation, high-speed broadband, education and workforce training - because those priorities benefit all businesses, and particularly middle class job growth, in Connecticut.
Comptroller Lembo also led the development of a voluntary retirement savings program that will serve up to 600,000 Connecticut workers in the private sector who currently have no workplace retirement savings option. Lembo said that such programs are imperative to both individual families and the entire state economy in order to ensure that all workers have the means to support their families throughout retirement, rather than be forced to rely on government services.
Even as state comptroller, Lembo continued his advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community, and adoptive and foster families. In building their own family, Comptroller Lembo and his spouse experienced a challenging path to adoption. On adoption finalization day for their two oldest sons, what should have been a simple joyful proceeding ended with a denial after a New York judge deemed their family unsuitable due to their marital status and sexual orientation. Ultimately, Lembo and Frey appealed the matter all the way to the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, establishing a precedent-setting case, "In the matter of Byron K." (1994).
Comptroller Lembo continued to advocate on behalf of families who have faced similar obstacles, as well as for parents and individuals affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder because of their own experiences as parents. In 2004, Lembo was commissioned a "Kentucky Colonel," the highest honor awarded by the Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, in recognition of his advocacy on behalf of children in foster care. In addition to working in partnership with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families to raise awareness about foster and adoption, Lembo and Frey have been licensed foster parents themselves.
"You can’t just say, 'I've got mine," and move on," Lembo said. "We have a responsibility to help one another."
Comptroller Lembo holds a Master of Public Administration from California State University and is a member of the Pi Alpha Honor Society. He has been recognized at the local and national levels by organizations including AARP, GLAD and Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information for his work in public policy, health care, retirement security and open government. He was named a Toll Fellow of the Council of State Governments and served as a panelist and moderator throughout the state and country as an expert in health care and retirement administration.