Dick Moccia announces candidacy for first selectman
A former four-term mayor of Norwalk, current Ridgefield Board of Finance member and former town Parking Authority member, Dick Moccia is seeking the Republican nomination to run for first selectman of Ridgefield.
“The direction Ridgefield is heading is not the direction that people are comfortable with — be it traffic, zoning, overbuilding, condition of the roads,” Moccia said in an interview with The Press in the Dunkin Donuts off Danbury Road.
“I’ve decided I will seek the nomination. I don’t know if there’s anybody else interested,” Moccia said.
If nominated at the July 23 caucus — there are no other announced Republican candidates — Moccia would presumably oppose Democratic incumbent First Selectman Rudy Marconi, who has said he will seek re-election.
“I want to be clear. I have the utmost respect for Rudy. But I have some ideas, as the campaign develops, I’d like to present as alternatives, and we’ll see what happens. Hopefully, we can have some debates.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Moccia said of the campaign.
“I’m not a Pollyanna: Rudy’s not going to be easy. He’s an institution in this town,” Moccia said.
“Aside from him as a person, good government cannot continue to have someone running unopposed as he did four years ago.”
Moccia said, “I will match my experience in government with anyone.”
Moccia served four terms as mayor of Norwalk, leading that city of close to 90,000 people from 2005 to 2013. He was elected to Ridgefield’s Board of Finance in 2017, after serving about two years on the town Parking Authority.
In Norwalk, his years of community involvement include service on the Common Council, Fire Commission, Fair Rent Commission and Redistricting Committee. He has also served as a Norwalk constable, city sheriff and Connecticut state marshal.
As Norwalk mayor, he was active in the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. He served as chairman of its Land Use Subcommittee and also its Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee.
He was also involved in the United States Conference of Mayors, serving on the Transportation and Communication Standing Committee, as vice chair of its Tourism, Arts, Parks, Entertainment and Sports Standing Committee, and also serving on its Water Quality Committee. He was also involved in the Mayors’ Alliance for Green Schools.
Moccia told The Press he would file paperwork to form a campaign committee, and had asked Repbulican Town Committee member Bob Cascella to be his campaign treasurer.
Moccia also said he would be “meeting with some advertising and social media people” to begin making plans on how to approach the campaign.
“We’re going to have a professional campaign and a professional staff,” Moccia said.
Moccia and his wife, Barbara, have lived in Ridgefield for five years. They have four adult children — three of them living in the area — and grandchildren living both nearby and farther off.
Ridgefield has issues worthy of the kind of serious discussion that a vigorous campaign for first selectman will generate, Moccia said, many of them relating to the continuing growth of a town that has a population of about 25,000.
“It’s always difficult to balance growth with maintaining a small town atmosphere,” Moccia said. “We all know Ridgefield has a small-town feeling and many recreational and cultural events. We want to keep it that way, but it’s balance.
“I think there’s more elected officials can do to be more responsive to those concerns,” he said.
“And all the neighborhood groups being focused on responses to concerns about the intrusion into residential zones, the affordable housing concerns, building — basically, concerns about the direction Ridgefield is taking in many areas.”
Moccia expects his experience in Norwalk will be useful in giving him perspective on Ridgefield’s struggles with similar concerns.
“There were issues about zoning, traffic,” he said. “We had more crime than Ridgefield — it’s a city, not a town. ...
“It boils down to a chief executive that can take stands and use the bully pulpit of his office to take the stands that other elected officials may want to follow.”
In addition to his political background, Moccia’s Ridgefield involvements include being active in Founders Hall and the Ridgefield Men’s Club.
Moccia said he’d had a bout with cancer shortly after leaving office as Norwalk’s mayor, but he didn’t expect any problems.
“I’m in remission. Everything’s going well. Playing golf, playing basketball,” he said.
If he’s nominated to oppose Marconi, Moccia said he anticipates that criticism will be flowing in both directions during the campaign.
“I expect as soon as this article hits, the Democratic Town Committee will be googling me and looking at every quote I’ve ever made — and I’m sure they’ll find a few I wish I hadn’t said. It’s fair game,” Moccia said.
“... I know when I ran for Board of Finance, there were a couple of letter writers calling me a slick politician from Norwalk.”
He also thought opponents might make something of his having lived in town five years, compared to Marconi growing up in Ridgefield and living most of his adult life in town.
“That’ll be a little bit of a talking point,” Moccia admitted.
“I’m not going to run a negative campaign,” he said. “Offering alternatives and being critical is legitimate. Being nasty is not necessary.”
“I wasn’t supposed to win my first election in Norwalk — my first race against an incumbent Democrat,” he said.
That was a challenge to a two-term mayor who’d been a state representative and run in 12 or 13 elections without a loss — until Moccia unseated him.
“I’ve tilted at windmills before,” Moccia said. “I’ll give it my best.”