Rell signed an executive order — the first of her fledgling administration — that aims to toughen state ethics laws for those who work for the governor and in the executive branch.
"Let the message be clear: From this day forward, if you are entrusted with public office, you will uphold the highest standards of public integrity and ethical principles," Rell said in her inaugural address Thursday.
It was a clear indication that Rell wants to take state government in a sharply different direction than Rowland, who resigned amid a federal corruption investigation and possible impeachment. Rowland had come under fire for accepting gifts from state contractors, friends and politically appointed employees.
According to Rell's executive order, state employees who oversee, review and award state contracts will have to file a personal financial statement with the state Ethics Commission within 30 days. That information could include investments and loans.
Her order requires state contractors to disclose any political contributions they've made to candidates for statewide office or the legislature.
Rell, 58, also let state employees know that she plans to bring change to Connecticut government.
"We now have a historic opportunity to restore public trust and confidence in our state government," she wrote in an e-mail sent to all executive branch employees.
"Working together, we can prove that state government is important, that we can manage our government with the highest standards of ethics and integrity and that we can efficiently deliver programs and services that people want and need," she said, thanking state employees for their dedication over the years.
Rowland had been at loggerheads with many unionized state workers and most recently ordered thousands of layoffs.
Rell has already also appointed a new legal counsel, chief of staff and spokesman. On Friday, she met briefly with about 25 commissioners who oversee state agencies such as environmental protection and corrections and asked each one to submit their resignations.
The officials' resignations take effect on Aug. 1, unless Rell decides to keep some of them on her team. Several commissioners who have come under fire for various reasons are expected to be ousted.
Rowland, 47, once a rising star in the Republican Party, announced his resignation last week. In his final days in office he had largely disappeared from public view, spending much of his time moving from the executive residence in Hartford to a home in West Hartford.
He has not said what he plans to do next.
Many who attended Thursday's inaugural — a pared-down, somber version of the traditional ceremonies — said they personally felt sad for Rowland and his family. But they are relieved the corruption cloud that has dogged the nearly three-term governor has lifted.
"It's something that's never happened in the history of our state. That's behind us now and we look forward now to a new era," said former Lt. Gov. Joseph Fauliso, a Democrat who served until 1991.
Democrats and Republicans alike praised Rell for setting a new tone and pledged to work with her.
"We want to help her in any way we can. The people of this state really do want some bipartisanship. They want people working together," said U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd (search), D-Conn.
Newly minted Lt. Gov. Kevin Sullivan, a Democrat from West Hartford and the former Senate president pro tem, said he will cooperate with Rell despite their political party differences.
"Today we have a new leader in Connecticut. It is her time," Sullivan said. "And Governor Rell has already made a brand new start. It is our time to give her our support. And I pledge to do just that."