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New London - Just hours after he was sworn into office, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio was at a house fire in which a woman had to be rescued from the burning building.
During his first day in office, he swore in his department heads and issued five executive orders, including several controversial ones involving police procedure and drug-law enforcement.
On Wednesday the mayor met with his new education adviser, reached out to local ministers to get the city's spiritual community involved, and fended off complaints from some city councilors that he didn't give them advance copies of his executive orders.
Finizio rescinded a section of one of the executive orders that directed police officers not to issue tickets for possession of marijuana on private property. The New London state's attorney told him the order violated state statutes.
On Thursday Finizio attended his first Board of Education meeting.
Four days into the new administration, the city's first elected mayor in 90 years and his staff were working Thursday around one table in the only meeting room in City Hall, laptops in front of them and cellphones within reach.
No preparations had been made to accommodate the new government when Finizio was elected Nov. 8; the mayor does not yet have an office, phone lines or computers.
"We're literally tearing down walls,'' Finizio said as he sat for an interview in a hallway of City Hall in front of a plastic sheet covering a hole in the wall where his new offices are being renovated. "We're trying to establish two branches of government. There's going to be some awkwardness."
But the new mayor, who claims he hasn't slept much thinking about all the things he wants to do to improve the city, said he's going to address every promise he made while running for office and all the items he outlined in his campaign literature, the 40-page "Vision for New London."
"I will hold true to my commitments,'' he said.
But he needs time. And an office.
During his first days in office Finizio talked with state officials and the board of directors of the New London Development Corp. about the future of the NLDC and Fort Trumbull. He also spoke with the superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy, Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz, about the needs of the academy. Voters decided that the city should not sell half of Riverside Park to the academy for expansion, but Finizio said there may be other options within the city for the Coast Guard.
"We're proceeding with a cooperative dialogue,'' he said.
Finizio said he's looking into the issue of homelessness and will look for ways to accommodate the needs of the homeless without infringing on the needs of merchants and visitors in the downtown business district.
"My role, in working with various entities and interests, my primary interest, is what is in the best interest of the people of New London," he said.
Finizio has asked his department heads to conduct administrative assessments of financing and staffing needs so he can start planning the 2012-13 budget. He won't say there will not be a tax increase, but he said he will do all he can to avoid one.
"The level of efficiency in the city is substandard,'' he said. "I have confidence in the department heads and confidence in the workers, and overall everyone is working very hard. ... But I get the general sense we can be doing a lot better."
One of his initiatives, the mayor said, is to institute a "CPR" protocol for all city employees. Workers must be courteous, professional and respectful.
Finizio will attend Board of Education meetings as an ex-officio member and plans to support school spending as long as the school district "embraces reforms.''
He also wants the high school to institute a public-service requirement for graduation and has pledged to volunteer an equal number of hours. He plans to donate 5 percent of his $86,000 salary to establish a scholarship for New London High School graduates.
One commitment Finizio won't be making is attending City Council meetings. He has designated his Jane Glover, his chief administrative officer, or his executive assistant, Zak Leavy, to sit in on the council meetings.
"I don't want to impose on them,'' he said. "They're a separate branch of the government and I want them to organize themselves and be a strong check and balance on the mayor.''
He added, however, that anytime the council requests his presence at a meeting, he will attend. "All the councilors have priority to see me at any time," he said.
With the transition to a mayoral form of government under way, Finizio said he is working on a "state of the city" address, which will outline his priorities and his budget plans. It will be released in mid- to late January.
"I plan to do exactly what I said I would do,'' he said.