Thursday was an emotional day for Fernando Spagnolo.

“I feel grateful, I feel blessed, it’s awesome,” he said.

He spent it reminiscing and reflecting on his 27 years in the Waterbury Police Department — rising through the ranks from officer, lieutenant, sergeant, detective, deputy chief, and interim chief.
Now, he gets to wear the chief’s hat permanently.

“I’m very proud of my career here. I’ve had a lot of great opportunities,” he said.

News 8 asked him what he hopes to accomplish with this newest opportunity.

He says one of his priorities will be to cut down on violent crime.

The city has seen a recent uptick. So far this year, 49 people have been hit by gunfire in Waterbury, compared to 52 for all of last year.

Related: Spagnolo named new Waterbury Police Chief

“I also have plans for this department to take a very aggressive stance on the violence and the opioid epidemic that plagues us,” he added.

Mayor Neil O’Leary tells News 8 one of the reasons he picked Spagnolo for the job is because of his efforts to improve relations between young people and police with community outreach efforts.

The mayor –a former police chief himself — says more of that is needed to help deal with a rise of violence involving young people and some neighborhood gangs.

“I know and have worked very, very closely with Fred throughout those 27 years. He worked with me on the gang task force, he worked with me on narcotics units, he worked with me on many major crimes,” he said.

“He’s the right guy for the job right now. He’s got the respect of the community,” Mayor O’Leary added.