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In the first of what is expected to be several major personnel changes, Governor Deval Patrick's chief of staff, William "Mo" Cowan, is leaving the administration and will be replaced by the director of communications, Brendan Ryan.

In appointing Ryan, Patrick is turning to a 31-year old aide who has been the longest member of the governor's senior staff and inner political circle. He first joined up with Patrick in 2005 at the outset of his gubernatorial campaign, travelling every day with the candidate in what began as a longshot battle for the Democratic nomination and turned into a landslide victory in November 2006.


"He has been at my side from the start, is deeply committed to our mission, and has grown tremendously as a leader,'' Patrick said in a statement released this afternoon. Ryan will take over the chief of staff position in January. His salary will increase from the $108,000 he is currently paid per year to $137,500. Cowan had made approximately $144,000.

"As we build on the progress of the last six years, Brendan brings continuity, proven talent, and the deep respect of the whole team,'' the governor added. "We are in good hands.''

Patrick had asked his cabinet members and senior staff earlier this fall to decide whether they planned to remain for the last two years of his second and final term. Several have indicated they are giving serious consideration to leaving, a senior administration source confirmed.

Patrick said that 43-year-old Cowan, who has served as chief of staff since January 2010, will return to the private sector. An administration source said Cowan has not made any final decisions on his future career.

Cowan had been a partner the Boston law firm Mintz Levin before joining the governor's staff as chief legal counsel in October 2009.


Patrick praised Cowan, a North Carolina native and Duke University graduate, as a "brilliant strategist, an effective executive, a wise counsel, and a dear friend.''

Ryan, who grew up in Foxborough and graduated from Vanderbilt University, served as deputy chief of staff in 2007 and 2008. He was a special adviser Patrick in 2009, at one point leading the transition in MBTA leadership and working on a first-ever review of the authority's finances.

He left the office in 2010 to work as the deputy campaign manager for Patrick's re-election committee. He then returned to Patrick's State House staff as director of communications.

Frank Phillips can be reached at phillips@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFPhillips.