Rilling does the right thing even away from the media’s eye

By Rod Lopez-Fabrega

NORWALK, Conn. – Oh no!  It’s time for another election! It seems we just finished with the last one, and here’s another crop of politicians, blue ones and red ones, kissing babies and making promises we don’t really believe they can keep. We know it’s the most solemn responsibility we have as citizens to pick the best one, but how can we really tell which one behind all the smoke and mirrors of a political campaign?

One way is to put aside all the political rhetoric and observe the little, day-to-day, unstudied actions of a candidate when the cameras aren’t looking. Here’s a few observations we’ve been able to make about one of the candidates:

Some winters ago, we had new neighbors move in directly across the street from our house here in Norwalk. We hadn’t met them formally yet. We’d had a really big snow — probably 18 inches on the ground. I get up early, pile on the warm clothes and struggle down the driveway to try to find the newspaper and, lo and behold, the new neighbor’s driveway has been plowed by a plowing contractor and half a ton of white stuff has been pushed across the street on to our side, burying our stand of laurel bushes.

In a snit, I cross the street and pound on the new neighbor’s door. I complain firmly to the startled lady who comes to the door that someone better do something about this pronto. Minutes after I grump my way home, I look out the window, and there is Harry Rilling, at the time Chief of Police of my City of Norwalk, shovel in hand, personally digging out my precious laurel bushes. From that point on, our laurel bushes were safe as long as Harry lived across the street. Actually, I think Harry enjoyed the manual labor, and we’ve been “good neighbors” ever since, even though he ultimately moved away.

On another occasion many months later, my wife had driven to one of the neighboring towns for some shopping. While on the Post Road it happened! There, in the rear view mirror, were the dreaded flashing red lights of a police car. What could she have done wrong? She pulled over and rolled down the window. A dour-faced officer walked the walk we see in movies and held out his hand for the registration. Silence while he studied it carefully. A year in the slammer for certain, my wife thought. Timidly, she asked what she’d done wrong. “Your brake lights are out, lady. You should always check them before you drive anywhere.” She did not say it but she wondered, how you do that from the driver’s seat? Later on she told the story to neighbor and Chief of Police Harry, and he said, “I always tell my officers that if they come in to work tired or grumpy or have had a bad night, they should go home, cool down and then come back to work when they can treat their ‘customers’ with respect.” And that is why, he added, “Norwalk police are noted as being the friendliest in the area.”

Just a few weeks ago as we waited in the middle school auditorium for Gov. Malloy to come and speak to the citizens of Norwalk, I stood one seat in from the aisle speaking briefly to former neighbor and no longer Chief of Police Harry Rilling. As we stood there, a man with a little boy aged about six years came up to Harry. The man explained that his young son’s ambition when growing up was to become a minister like his dad or be a member of a SWAT team. Who better to ask about the latter than the former top policeman?

It was quite a sight to see Harry, himself a young grandfather of seven, looking down on the awe-struck boy and gently telling him. I couldn’t quite hear what he was saying, but the sight was so charming, I sidled in closer. What I did hear was the end of the conversation. Harry Rilling was saying to this little six-year-old, “… so whatever you decide, always remember: Do the right thing.”

Mind blowing? No, of course not. But it gave me a little insight into Harry — not as a politician, but as a man. That meant almost as much to me as the rhetoric that would come later from all the candidates, including from this man who already has an unparalleled public record of achievements and leadership.

Icing on the cake, if you will.

Rod Lopez-Fabrega


10 responses to “Rilling does the right thing even away from the media’s eye”

  1. Suzanne

    Harry was being a good citizen and a good person. I would expect that from any candidate. These are laudable stories but I am sure there are examples of such from every candidate. One would expect that someone who wants to lead a town to be a good and responsible person. I am glad Harry is but that does not preclude other candidates who are most likely the same.

    Not to be completely callous to your nice stories but, as a taxpayer and constituent, I need someone with skills who can navigate the very troubled town that is Norwalk on all kinds of levels including budgetary, behaviorally, govern mentally, educationally and, yes, politically. (I am sure I missed a few.) Mr Rilling is a fine candidate but I worry – his past work has given him almost too close a relationship with what exists rather than a fresh perspective for what can be. I don’t want the same responses to existing problems – Mr. Rilling knows how to work within the parameters of what exists. What is he going to do to change it?

  2. Joe Espo

    Mr. Lopez-Fabrega: you’re sycophantism is almost pornographic. Save it for the president. Harry is not Barack.

  3. Rod Lopez-Fabrega

    SUZANNE: Agreed. Harry himself in his own words is providing the information you ask for. He’s already published two detailed papers and more coming.

    In case you missed my earlier letter with some more things most people don’t know about Harry, here it is:

    A few things most of us did no know about Harry: If you sleepy Norwalk Democrats haven’t noticed (and the wide-awake Norwalk Republicans are beginning to take note), there are some achievements in Harry Rilling’s life that we need to review, since he has said he is ready to be our next mayor.

    Did you know that, for starters, Harry graduated Summa Cum Laude from Iona College and graduated with highest honors with an MS in Public Administration from the University of New Haven?

    Did you remember that Harry served as Chief of Norwalk’s Police Force for 17 years?

    Did you know that Harry was very active and widely well-known on the national and statewide law enforcement scenes, that he was President of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association and that he was elected to be the State of Connecticut representative to the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) for eight years?

    Did you know that Harry was selected by the president of the IACP to serve on the National Drug Enforcement Coalition, a component of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)?

    Did you know that Harry was a team leader for the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) and evaluated 25 law enforcement agencies around the country?

    Did you know that Harry was certified by the Department of Homeland Security to teach a two-day course entitled “Leading From the Front: Weapons of Mass Destruction for The Law Enforcement Executive?

    How did we learn about these things? We asked Harry (they are also on his site: http://www.rillingformayor.com , but who reads political sites?)

    What does this tell us? Harry’s achievements in his previous career have already have made him a regionally and even nationally recognized personality as an outstanding leader. But, he is not running for Police Chief. It’s the leadership part that is important for the voters to remember in selecting the next mayor—most especially since as has been said before, under Norwalk’s weak mayor/strong council system of governance, the mayor has limited authorities and little control over the police and fire departments and “even a new Mayor with ambitious new governance goals would be hard pressed to significantly boost spending and local real estate taxes under the current environment”?

    It is the Common Council that is the law-writing body of the City of Norwalk. The man we elect to move our sometimes divided and quarrelsome Council has to have the quiet strength and sensitivity to take a diverse group of individualistic, ambitious, head-strong, Common Council prima-donnas who often suffer from tunnel vision and direct, advise, inspire and mold them into a working team to achieve great things.

    It seems clear that what Norwalk needs in its next mayor is a good coach. Our current mayor has not always been a good coach, often, as reported in our media, dividing and brow-beating. Harry Rilling’s proven ability to speak softly but carry the big nightstick of persuasion makes him the man to referee and pull the Common Council together to move our town ahead as well as to represent Norwalk with dignity and determination locally, regionally and nationally.

    And, as mentioned elsewhere, to add to Harry’s coaching qualifications, let it be known that he did coach youth baseball in the Cranbury league for about nine years then coached in the Babe Ruth league for three years. He also volunteered to coach the baseball team at West Rocks Middle School when they had no staff person to do it. For approximately 4 years, he was an Assistant District Commissioner with the Boy Scouts of America.

  4. Tim T

    Rod Lopez-Fabrega
    Are you for real????
    After reading your propaganda I feel the need to vomit.
    I and most in Norwalk could careless what a great neighbor Rilling is. What we do care about is his time at the top of the NPD which was filled with out of control crime, officers being arrested themselves, out of control overtime,a mass exit of senior officer, and one excuse after the next why Rilling’s NPD failed and failed miserably to prevent or solve crime. How Rod Lopez-Fabrega do you expect anyone to vote for someone as mayor who in my opinion couldn’t run one department in the city and now you expect him to run the while city????

  5. Suzanne

    Mr. Lopez-Fabrega, I evaluated Mr. Rilling’s WEB site before responding to this article. The qualifications you list do not answer my essential question and concerns about Mr. Rilling(and, please, I thought you were going to list the number of times he shopped at Stew’s – repeatedly outlining his CV only serves to disenfranchise. Everything you listed is a look backward.) He has been on the inside for a very long time of Norwalk City government – again, what perspective and specifics will he bring to the office of Mayor to change the clearly dysfunctional government that currently exists?

  6. John Frank Sr.

    Chief Rilling was a good cop, worked hard to earn several college degrees while working full time, and was an excellent chief, working within the restraints put on any chief by the mayor and his police commission. He never forgot he was working for all the people of Norwalk.
    Like any good cop, he never lost the ability to be tough as nails one minute, and as gentle as needed the next. The present mayor has not shown that ability, and is not capable of getting better. We deserve better, and now is the time. Chief Rilling is ready to work for all the people now, and has my full support.
    Captain John Frank (retired)
    Norwalk Police Dept.

  7. Mr Norwalk Ct

    Isn’t Rilling already Mayor?
    Oh that’s right Moccia is the Mayor.
    I always get those 2 confused.. My Bad

  8. Rod Lopez-Fabrega

    We know it’s the most solemn responsibility we have as citizens to pick the best one, but how can we really tell which one behind all the smoke and mirrors of a political campaign?

    One way is to put aside all the political rhetoric and observe the little, day-to-day, unstudied actions of a candidate when the cameras aren’t looking…not as a politician, but as a man.

  9. Mr Norwalk Ct

    You originally said you were a friend of Rillings and wanted to say a few words. It seems what you actually are is Rillings propaganda machine. The more you post the more you prove Rilling is a fake and not the one to vote for.

  10. Rod Lopez-Fabrega

    Mr. Norwalk:

    We know it’s the most solemn responsibility we have as citizens to pick the best candidate, but how can we really tell which one behind all the smoke and mirrors of a political campaign?

    One way is to put aside all the political rhetoric and observe the little, day-to-day, unstudied actions of a candidate when the cameras aren’t looking…not as a politician, but as a man.

    You have a problem with this? You prefer the smoke and mirrors, perhaps?

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