Passero looks ahead to mayor's office in New London

Michael Passero thanks his supporters after winning the New London mayoral race during a gathering at the Democratic headquarters in New London Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Michael Passero thanks his supporters after winning the New London mayoral race during a gathering at the Democratic headquarters in New London Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Editor's note: This version corrects the date of Passero's swearing in.

New London — When he takes office next month, Mayor-elect Michael Passero said, he plans a less tumultuous transition compared to what occurred four years ago.

“I don’t see a great deal of change in personnel right out of the box,” Passero said.

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, after becoming the first elected mayor in nearly a century, had stirred up controversy after making numerous appointments to head city departments.

Several longtime city employees lost their jobs.

In contrast, Passero said he will take time to evaluate how things are operating with a focus on the public works and police departments, “where some of the most serious issues have to be addressed.”

Passero said he has already spoken with Police Chief Margaret Ackley within the past two weeks and will be looking at the best options for leadership in public works where currently there is an interim director.

His first order of business, he said, will be to form a search committee to find the next chief administrative officer for the city, which he said will be key to an efficiently run government.

Passero — a Democrat, three-term city council member, part-time labor attorney and 31-year veteran of the city fire department — held his first transition committee meeting on Wednesday.

It comes a day after he routed Republican challenger Bill Vogel in the municipal election and less than two months after his victory over Finizio at the Democratic primary.

His team is composed of members of his campaign staff and led by campaign chairman Kevin Cavanagh, who is a former city councilor and ceremonial mayor.

The team includes local redeveloper Frank McLaughlin, Economic Development Commission Chairwoman Elaine Stattler, former state police Colonel Steve Fields and secretary Deirdre Cavanagh.

Kevin Cavanagh said along with the major issues Passero will face when he takes office are some of the more mundane, but equally important, items.

Those include things like an updating of the city’s website, establishment of a calendar for upcoming events and planning for a Dec. 7 swearing-in ceremony.

Passero’s team has already secured transition space in the finance building where it will begin the task of identifying which boards and committee meetings Passero should be attending.

Passero said he plans to be a constant at many meetings where in the past the mayor was not present.

He said he has already talked to the local legislative delegation and begun the task of rebuilding some relationships regionally, at places like the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments where he said there were some lost financial opportunities in the past.

As for his job at the fire department, Passero said he will consult with the city’s attorney about the transition but will not be out fighting fires anytime soon.

“The way I look at it is I’m getting a promotion from one city job to another city job,” he said.

At 59, Passero said he only had five years left at his job at the department before he would be mandated to retire.

The overall goal, Passero said, is to put together a team to run the city that works as well as his campaign team.

“I want to get all departments up and running with the proper managers in place. I’ll be able to focus on what I think the mayor’s job should be, which is to promote the city … and grow the tax base.”

g.smith@theday.com

Twitter: @SmittyDay

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