‘Respectful and Professional’: Longtime Colleagues on Ousted Emergency Management Director

Municipal officials who have worked closely with Mike Handler for years as members of the New Canaan Emergency Operations Center describe him as respectful, professional and skilled—a description that is at odds with a picture that has been painted by the town’s highest elected official. The widely popular emergency management director resigned from the volunteer position last week at the request of First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, setting off impassioned debate among New Canaan residents who long have been accustomed to Handler’s timely and reassuring updates during emergencies, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Moynihan has said Handler’s own “conduct” brought on the request for his resignation, offering no details other than that there was an issue of “respect” and that complaints regarding Handler had come in for an extended period of time, from health officials and others. Handler called those allegations “hurtful and baseless,” and town officials responded to a public records request for any emails Health Department staff complaining about him to Moynihan in the week prior to his dismissal by saying there weren’t any. Asked for an assessment of the job Handler did with the EOC, Fire Chief Jack Hennessey said he’s worked with Handler since coming to New Canaan in 2006 and he “never witnessed any harsh or mistreatment of any of the volunteer or town staff team members working in the EOC over the numerous activations we have had in the past 10 years.”

“Mike Handler and his team has always done an exemplary job for the town of New Canaan,” Hennessey said.

NCPD

New Canaan Sees Sharp Increase in Thefts from Motor Vehicles

New Canaan has seen a dramatic increase in thefts from motor vehicles through the first four months of 2020, officials said last week. The larcenies increased from two in 2019 to 17 this year, according to Police Chief Leon Krolikowski. “People are just not locking their cars and [they are] leaving their keys in cars that are getting stolen,” Krolikowski said during a May 20 meeting of the Police Commission, held via videoconference. 

“We did have a window broken on a vehicle and a lot of items stolen in it. I suspect because the thieves came in and saw so many valuable items in the car that they decided to break the window and take everything. But that is not the norm.

NCHS Grad, Rising West Point Cadet Reflects on the Late Peter Langenus as Memorial Day Nears

Ryan Krolikowski, a 2019 New Canaan High School graduate who will enter the U.S. Military Academy at West Point this year, first met Col. Peter C. Langenus when he was a boy. 

Son of Anna Valente-Krolikowski and New Canaan Police Chief Leon Krolikowski, himself a former U.S. Marine, Ryan recalled Langenus as the commander of VFW Post 653 who led efforts each spring and fall to plant flags and wreaths, respectively, at the gravestones of all of those buried in New Canaan who had served in the military. 

“I got to know him through that and got to know him as more of a friend as the years grew on, and learned what he did for our country, and what he does now, and all of the accolades he had received,” Ryan recalled. “And I really saw him as a kind of mentor, because he chose the path I really wanted to do, and he guided me toward going to West Point.”

A U.S. Army captain in Vietnam who also served as a colonel during Operation Desert Storm, Langenus died in January following a battle with cancer. Locals knew him as a steady figure who for years organized and presided over the annual Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies in New Canaan, where the names of veterans who had passed since the prior ceremony were read aloud and where Langenus himself recited by heart the war poem “In Flanders Fields.” He also led efforts to update and display the plaques honoring New Canaan veterans that now greet visitors to Town Hall’s northern entrance. 

Krolikowski soon will be the fourth generation in his family to serve in the U.S. military. He and three other scouts—Jack Goetz, Andrew Wilson and Henry Pohle—were to serve as grand marshals in this year’s parade, on Langenus’s recommendation. 

Krolikowski’s own Eagle Scout project—the clearing out and plaque-ing of the Parade Hill Cemetery, where many veterans are buried, including some who died while serving—was taken on at Langenus’s suggestion. 

“It was very unkempt and got really bad in recent years, and I took it on to improve it, because the veterans buried there, from the Revolution to the Civil Wars, deserved to be treated respectfully,” Krolikowski said.

Op-Ed: ‘Honoring Our Nation’s War Dead’ with Poppies

Typically, on the weekend before Memorial Day, war veterans distribute poppies to honor the ultimate sacrifice of our nation’s veterans. However, due to the pandemic members of our local Veterans of Foreign War Post, 653 will not be distributing poppies. 

Still, poppies will be available for no contact self-service in front of ACME, Dunkin’ Donuts, Walter Stewart’s Market and Zumbach’s. The significance of the poppy in honoring our nation’s war dead is traced to World War I.

From the battlefields of World War I, weary soldiers brought home the memory of a barren landscape transformed by wild poppies, red as the blood that had soaked the soil. By that miracle, the poppy became a symbol of the sacrifice of lives in war and represented the hope that none had died in vain. The poppy has continued to bloom for the casualties wars, its petals of paper bound together for veterans by veterans, reminding America each year that the men and women who have served and died for their country deserve to be remembered. 

Although poppies have a long history of being used to honor the dead in both Greek and Roman mythology, the poppy, as a memorial flower to the war dead, can be traced to a single individual, Moina Michael.