Stephen Iannazzi, a longtime Statehouse staffer who most recently served as chief of staff to Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, is leaving to take a job as Northeast director of government affairs for Cox Communications.

Iannazzi’s departure is one of a series of staff changes announced by the Senate.

Jake Bissaillon, currently legal counsel to Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey, will succeed Iannazzi as Ruggerio’s chief of staff; Nicole M. Verdi is poised to succeed the retiring Richard G. Sahagian as the Senate’s chief legal counsel.

The change comes after Ruggerio faced a serious challenge for his Senate seat in a Democratic primary last September from a progressive opponent, Lenny Cioe, who got badly outspent. Despite that, Cioe got more than 45 percent of the vote.

In a statement, Ruggerio said, “First and foremost, I want to wish Stephen and Richard well. I am fortunate to have had them by my side throughout my tenure as Senate President. Stephen and Richard have provided me with trusted counsel, assisted the Senate in developing important public policies, and helped to navigate our state through this present pandemic.”

While Cioe’s challenge fell short, progressives increased their representation in the Senate, and leadership has moved to the left on a series of issues.

Iannazzi started working for the Senate, as a special assistant to Ruggerio, during Teresa Paiva Weed’s tenure as president of the chamber.

In a news release, Cox said Iannazzi’s new role will include responsibility “for supporting the government affairs team and the vice president of government affairs in the company’s efforts to strengthen relationships with state and local leaders and to drive productive partnerships with key anchor institutions and community groups.”

“Stephen is highly respected across state government for his commitment to public service and for driving dialog among lawmakers that leads to common sense solutions for Rhode Islanders,” Jay Allbaugh, senior vice president and region manager at Cox, said in a statement. “We look forward to having his voice at the table as we strengthen our commitment to Rhode Island through job creation, infrastructure investment, and forward-looking solutions that bring us all close

Bissaillon, a previous chief of staff for the Providence City Council, joined the Senate staff in 2017 after working as a policy analyst and deputy communications director in the RI House.

Verdi will be leaving a role as deputy chief of staff to Gov. Gina Raimondo. She previously worked at Adler Pollock & Sheehan.

Ruggerio also announced that Joseph Masino, currently manager of boards and commissions for Raimondo, will become his deputy chief of staff.

Ian Donnis can be reached at