Anthony DeFala said Monday that while he is grateful for the support shown after The Valley Indy reported he will be replaced as Derby Public Works director, he wants people to respect new Mayor Rich Dziekan’s decision.
“I wasn’t happy with the decision, but look, I’ll be fine,” DeFala said.
The Valley Indy reported Dec. 13 that Dziekan decided not to keep DeFala in the position he’s held for four years. Almost 40 people posted comments on the story. Most were unhappy with the decision.
DeFala said his cell phone has been ringing nonstop. But he wants people to accept Dziekan’s decision and move on.
“I’m overwhelmed by the people, and I appreciate what people are saying, believe me. But I’d like it to end. I want to go out on a good note and move on,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m still going to be contributing to Derby.”
He also said he doesn’t want to see the new mayor heavily criticized this early in his tenure.
Derby leaders need to put aside politics and personal disagreements.
“Everyone needs to come together here, Republicans and Democrats,” he said.
DeFala’s employment is scheduled to end at the end of this month.
On Monday afternoon, Andrew Baklik, Dziekan’s chief of staff, sent an email announcing DeFala is being replaced by Hamden Police Department Sgt. Edward Armeno.
Dziekan is a retired Hamden police officer. Baklik said Armeno was one of Dziekan’s supervisors at the department, and the mayor deeply respects his management skills, Baklik said.
Armeno is retiring from the Hamden Police Department to take the position in Derby, Baklik said.
“In his career, he has supervised the Community Police Division, Patrol Division, and Traffic Division,” Baklik said in an email. “He was in charge of countless patrolmen during this time. In the traffic division, he was responsible for the complete 72 vehicle fleet, which consisted of the ordering, outfitting, and maintaining of said vehicles. During his tenure, he very proficiently assisted the Chief of Police in the budget process.”
Baklik said DeFala was a good public works director and tackled a number of improvement projects in Derby, but Dziekan wants someone with a fresh perspective and municipal management experience on the job.
The management experience is key, Baklik said.
Armeno has been a police officer in Hamden for 38 years.
His duties including supervising the department’s accident reconstruction unit, of which Dziekan was a member.
The unit investigated fatal crashes and wrecks with serious injuries.
“He reviewed site plans, ensuring proper traffic flow design for private developers,” Baklik said. “He was in charge of making sure town ordinances for parking lots and private roads were satisfied. His management and supervisory skills are beyond excellent, and his ability to work with the public on a daily basis is exemplary.”
Baklik said Armeno will be building atop the foundation laid by DeFala.
He said there is no ill will between the new administration and DeFala. In fact, Baklik has a framed group photo of his close friends on the shelf behind his wall. In the photo — Anthony DeFala’s son, Anthony Jr.
In Derby, the mayor has the power to name the public works director, which means the person holding the position often changes when a new mayor is elected.
DeFala got the job when Anita Dugatto was elected mayor in 2013. He replaced Ron Culmo, who had been appointed by Mayor Anthony Staffieri.
DeFala, a father of two with four grandchildren, is fourth-generation Derby. He coached in various youth leagues in the city.
Public Works Director was a dream job for him, because it gave him the chance to improve his home town’s “curb appeal,” he said.
The 13-person public works department made a number of visible improvements in four years. Overgrown public spaces — such as a grassy hill across from Roseland Apizza on Hawthorne Avenue — were cleaned up.
Sidewalks that were literally buried by overgrowth in the area of Chatfield Street were cleaned up, and extended to make the area safer for pedestrians.
Dead trees were taken down around Coon Hollow Park. A series of improvements were made to the area surrounding basketball courts on Nutmeg Avenue.
A dangerous intersection at Mount Pleasant Street and Derby Avenue was improved.
The public works employees teamed with Irving School students for a Junior Achievement class.
Extensive improvements were made at Witek Park, including the installation of a pedestrian bridge.
All the while the DPW remained within its budget.
DeFala also supervised the milling and paving of more than 20 roads as part of a $3.7 million road bond voters approved in 2014. Some of those roads had not been touched in generations.
DeFala promised to help his replacement transition into the job.
He specifically hoped the city and public works would move forward with a plan to replace aging rails and fences along the city’s Greenway, a walking path along the Housatonic and Naugatuck rivers.
“That’s the jewel of Derby,” DeFala said.
DeFala told The Valley Indy he specifically wanted to thank former Mayor Anita Dugatto for her support while she was in Derby City Hall. DeFala said Dugatto was respectful and competent, and a very good manager.
He also thanked the 13 employees at Derby Public Works. If Derby’s looking better, all credit should go to the public works employees, DeFala said.
DeFala also expressed gratitude to Derby Public Schools Superintendent Matthew Conway.
He said Conway’s expertise, knowledge and commitment to the city is under-reported.
“I have tremendous respect for him, and I’ve enjoyed working alongside him,” DeFala said. “I consider him a personal friend.”
DeFala said he also plans to stay involved with the various athletic field committees that were formed after the school district received a multi-million dollar grant from the state and another multi-million dollar private donation to build new fields.