NORWALK, Conn. – Former Police Chief Harry Rilling says his goal is to make Norwalk the best it can be, if he wins the mayoral race this year.
“I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to this town,” Rilling said Sunday after speaking about his life as a Norwalk resident. And now, he said, its time for him to “pay up.”
Rilling formally announced his candidacy Sunday afternoon to a crowd of nearly 150 supporters, all vocalizing their agreement.
"At one point Norwalk was a destination, and it can be again," Rilling said to a round of applause. “It’s our job to work together to make it better.”
Rilling said that if he was elected mayor, he would focus on four main aspects of the city: education, development, crime and government.
Part of his plan is to make sure the Board of Education is fully funded, but not to excess, he said. That means ensuring a reasonable budget to improve the school system through aspects like technology and implementing the Core Curriculum Program in all grades, he said.
Bringing new development to the city is a huge aspect of his plans. He spoke about how the communities surrounding Norwalk were outstripping the city in business development in hopes of increasing the grand list while also decreasing the tax burden on homeowners. “It’s time to get Norwalk moving again,” he said.
Another part, one he called near and dear to his heart, is crime prevention. Rilling spent 41 years in the Norwalk Police Department, 17 years as chief, before he retired last year.
“The Police Department does a wonderful job,” he said, but he added that the department is only one aspect of crime prevention and that it doesn’t do enough with rehabilitation. Which is where, he said, the city really needs to look.
Rilling spoke about giving the city a transparent government with a monthly “Mayor’s Night Out,” in which he and department heads would meet with citizens and business owners, whether the department heads wanted to or not.
“As chief of police I had the responsibility to provide for the public safety of Norwalk. The ultimate provision of public safety and security lies in the hands of the mayor,” Rilling said. “I knew I wanted to serve at the greatest capacity to give back to Norwalk because Norwalk has given so much to me.”
Rilling is the fourth Democrat to enter the race against incumbent Republican Mayor Richard Moccia, who is seeking re-election and so far has no primary opposition for the Nov. 5 general election. The other Democrats, who will face off in a Sept. 10 primary, are District D Democratic Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra; former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel, who lost to Moccia two years ago; and Common Council member Matt Miklave.
The petition filing deadline for candidates to run for municipal offices is Aug. 7.