Anyone in town that knows Anthony Cuozzo is well aware of his desire to be top dog in the Orange Police Department. When Asst. Chief Edward Koether retired nearly one month ago, Cuozzo was probably first in line with his application in hand.
The past month has been a nail-biter for Cuozzo and his wife of 20 years, Antonietta as the Police Commission meeting was postponed from last week to this week, and then from Monday to Tuesday due to the Jewish holiday.
Minutes after Chief Robert Gagne broke the news and congratulated Lt. Cuozzo on his new job, I was in his livingroom with Antonietta, two of his children and his mom watching as he fielded one congratulatory cell phone call after another.
Antonietta smiled and said, “It’s been a long time coming. He works so hard, he deserves it.”
Tony’s mom, Carole, brushed back her tears and said, “My husband would have been so proud.” Arnold Cuozzo died in December 2010.
“So, talk to me, how does it feel?” I asked.
“Believe it or not, I’m speechless,” Cuozzo said. (If you know Tony … You wouldn’t believe it)
That said, he gathered his thoughts, lost the deer in the headlights look and talked about achieving his long time goal. “I bleed Orange. I’ve been here 23 years, it’s where I’ve always wanted to be,” he said. “I’ve directed my career to move up and to have this opportunity is really an honor.”
“I’m really looking forward to working at this level with Chief Gagne. I’ve been his administrative Lt. for four years, so we’ve worked close together on that respect, but I still have a lot to learn,” he said. “It’s a really different perspective. I’ve been able to make recommendations all these years, but now to actually be in the position to make decisions is kind of new to me.”
Cuozzo said the bottom line is that he would not be where he is today had it not been for his wife and family supporting him when he was working on holidays and overnight shifts.
He also credits all the guys and gals that work for him and that he’s worked with for all these years. “They’re the ones doing all the work and I got a lot of the credit, but I credit them,” he said. “The only thing missing here today is my dad, but I know he’s here somewhere.”
“I’m excited, I’m nervous. I’ve done everything I can do to prepare for this moment,” he said. “I have some big shoes to fill.”
For Cuozzo, Tuesday was a nerve wracking, waiting for the call that would either bear disappointing news or change his life.
“The waiting is the hardest part. You have no control — you do your best in the interview and hope that your experience and resume stand on their own and you wait,” he said.
He looked at Antonietta and continued, “I laugh, there are those moments in life with that ultimate surprise, your first born, you don’t know if its a boy or a girl … you get engaged, get married, have kids – and this is one of those moments, when the community has the faith in you,” he said. “I had to convince the police commission that I was the guy for the job, and for them to put their confidence in me is remarkable. They’re a volunteer commission and it wasn’t an easy decision. all of the candidates were outstanding. I’ve worked shoulder to shoulder with all of them, and to be recognized as the next guy is a huge honor.”
Be careful what you wish for
Cuozzo said he’s stayed in touch with past chiefs and even sought out advice on getting through the oral interview and often heard the same thing, “Be careful what you wish for.”
Being Asst. Chief is a huge responsibility: it’s the operational end of the department. Chief Gagne’s job is planning and oversight, while the Asst Chief’s job is day to day, making sure things happen — he got a taste of that as acting second in command doing paperwork and answering his phone in the middle of the night. “It’s all part of the job and it’s for the good of the community. I’ve wanted this for a while. I think I’ll rise to the occasion and make Chief Gagne and the town proud.”
A date has not yet been set for Asst. Chief Cuozzo’s swearing in ceremony, but Orange Live will let you know as soon as it’s decided.