HARTFORD -- A steady stream of well-wishers and advocates for a variety of issues poured through the state Capitol building to grab a photo with newly minted Gov. Dannel P. Malloy -- or secure a few minutes with him to discuss a personal cause.

Malloy, who was sworn in as governor this week, said his first-ever open house Saturday morning was based on similar public events he hosted frequently during his 14-year tenure as mayor of Stamford, such as monthly meetings with city residents at the Government Center or in local restaurants.

"It's a logical extension of that," Malloy said. "We're going to do a lot of the same things."

Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman greeted dozens of state residents at the two-hour open house, during which attendees were asked to bring canned food items as donations for Foodshare, the regional food bank in Hartford. A handful of attendees were state workers looking to meet their new bosses, while some were familiar faces from the campaign trial.

A self-described history buff, Dan Carstens, 48, of Old Saybrook, came to simply show his support for the new governor and express his interest in Malloy's plans to expand Bradley International Airport. He said it's important to pay attention to the political process, especially with the daunting task of reducing the state deficit that is before the new governor.

"People are very concerned," Carstens said. "Any elected official is going to stand tough criticism."

Malloy is taking the reins of a state government that is facing a $3.5 billion budget deficit at a time when 9 percent of the workforce is unemployed.

Brenda Colon, 38, of Windsor, greeted Malloy and Wyman along with her 6-year-old son, Jalen Bowen, who impressed the elected officials with his people skills, mainly his handshake and eye contact. Colon is an adoption worker with the state Department of Children and Families, which she said needs more employees so she and co-workers can spend more time in the field.

"We need to keep families together," she said. "That's not happening right now."

Another state worker, Margarita Giraldo, 41, of Wethersfield, asked bluntly whether she was going to lose her job as an accountant with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Malloy deflected the question with a joke.

"He's planning to change the government," Giraldo said after meeting with Malloy.

Some of the brief meetings took a lighter tone. Giraldo's daughter, Estefania Maya, 13, asked Malloy about attending a high school specifically for acting.

Malloy, who regularly turned to his extended family for anecdotes during the open house, told her that several of his relatives went on to careers in music and the performing arts without attending a specialized school.

"I feel like not too many people know they are good at acting or don't believe in themselves," Maya said.

Before the meet-and-greet was done, however, the conversation veered to more pressing matters. A young lawyer asked Malloy whether he thought the governor's mansion was haunted after staying there the past few days.

"The only thing that haunts me is the deficit," Malloy said.

Staff Writer Jeff Morganteen can be reached at jeff.morganteen@scni.com or 203-964-2215.