NORWALK, Conn. – Democratic mayoral candidate Harry Rilling has said that, given his 17 years as a Norwalk department head – chief of police – there will be no learning curve for him if he is elected Nov. 5.
Starting now, however, Rilling’s campaign to unseat four-term incumbent Richard Moccia will be a learning experience for 21 teenage girls the candidate dubbed “Harry’s Angels” Wednesday night at the official opening of his campaign headquarters at 25 Van Zant St.
The new Rilling campaign interns are from Shikoba Society and YLTrapped (Young Ladies Take Responsibility And Portray Proper Educational Development) Sisterhood, peer to peer mentoring training, Andrea Carter said. The twist is they’re mentors in training, Carter said. They began learning life skills in middle school and will mentor younger girls.
Julie Moore of YLTrapped said she is helping 15- to 20-year-olds cross over into womanhood socially and economically, creating bonds and friendships.
The Rilling for Mayor headquarters, which will double as Democratic campaign headquarters for use at will by the entire Democratic ticket, features two offices, a kitchenette, a welcoming area and plenty of room for a conference table desk in the big central area, where volunteers operate a phone bank. Those phones were ringing Wednesday night even as Rilling was addressing the troops.
“I’ve offered the use of this headquarters to all the other candidates, the underticket, to come in and do whatever they want in here – use our phones, take some of our snacks, make some telephone calls, get their volunteers in here, store their materials in here, whatever they want,” he said.
The opening was attended by council candidates John Igneri, Kate Tepper, David Watts, Kevin Poruban, Board of Education candidates Shirley Mosby, Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Amanda Brown and former mayors Bill Collins and Alex Knopp. Notable because of their absence were Rilling’s opponents in the September primary, Matt Miklave, Vinny Mangiacopra and Andy Garfunkel, along with some of their most ardent supporters.
“I’m not the only one on the ticket,” Rilling said. “We need to get a new Common Council in there to work with me, because if we don’t it’s just going to be another two years of difficult bumping heads and trying to get things done, and obstacles put in the way.”
The speech and the friendly get-to-know-you mixing was followed for the young women by a conversation scheduling them for phone dialing, as Carter and Moore told them to make the most of their 40-day internship with Rilling.
“It’s their choice,” Carter said, of the involvement of her nine 14- to 21-year-olds. “It’s introducing them into politics.”
Another youthful supporter is Michael Campbell, one of three “super volunteers.” Campbell has been making phone calls, biking around town and knocking on doors.
“He’s done everything he can for our city,” Campbell said of Rilling. “Having been the police chief of Norwalk for 17 years, he has the leadership for this town. He really has the leadership this town needs.”
Rilling said he spent all day in his office making phone calls, while others were at the phone bank dialing away.
“We work hard,” he said. “There is no way that we can lose if we work hard and we work together.”