Cota follows dad, named interim chief
ANSONIA — It could become a like father, like son story.
So far Lt. Andrew Cota, III appears to be following in his father’s footsteps.
Cota, a 27-year veteran of the Ansonia Police Department, was the unanimous selection to serve as interim chief during a meeting of the city’s Police Commission on Wednesday. It’s the first step in finding a permanent replacement for Kevin Hale, who is retiring after 18 years as chief on Feb. 15.
Cota comes from a family of police officers. His father, Andrew Jr., served for 13 years as Derby’s police chief before retiring in 2006, and his late uncle Allen served 25 years as a Derby police officer.
“I’m very excited at this opportunity,” said Cota, 48, who is married with two grown boys and lives in Ansonia. “I’ll be meeting with Chief Hale to begin the transition process.”
Aside from his time in Ansonia, Cota had a brief stint working for the Middlebury police. He served for several years as the public information officer in Ansonia.
He is a graduate of Derby High School in 1988 and both Post University in Waterbury and the FBI National Training Academy in 2010. He is working on his master’s degree in public administration.
“It was a difficult call,” said Mike Rinaldi, who serves as vice chairman of the Police Commission. “All three of the lieutenants (Cota, Patrick Lynch, who is the department’s public information officer and heads patrol operations and Wayne Williams, who supervises the investigative division) are top notch. There was a lot of discussion.”
The four commission members who attended Wednesday’s meeting met for about 45 minutes in executive session with Hale before announcing Cota as their choice. Paul Heon, the commission’s new chairman, then appointed Rinaldi and John Tar, a Greenwich police sergeant, to formulate a process for selecting a permanent replacement.
“I expect we’ll have guidelines and a process in place next month,” Rinaldi said. “I believe we’ll be able to select a new chief by the end of the year, if not much sooner.”
Cota said he will apply for the permanent position.
“I’m familiar with the Valley and its challenges and I’ve worked with Chief Hale on a number of projects,” Cota said.
He said his time at the FBI Academy enabled him to develop leadership and investigative skills as well as build relationships with criminal justice officials across the country and overseas.
“If I have questions about policy or procedure, there are people I can call,” he said.
Mayor David Cassetti commended Cota’s selection.
“He has a lot of experience not just as an Ansonia police officer for the last 27 years, but growing up in the Valley,” the mayor said. “I know if a particular difficult situation arises, he can turn to his father for guidance.”
The mayor said he expects the search for a permanent replacement to include candidates from within and outside the police department.
“It’s up to the commission to determine how they will do that,” Cassetti said.
The older Cota, who now serves as a Derby facility inspector specializing in blight enforcement, said his son has the background, education and wherewithal to serve as Ansonia’s permanent chief.
“I’m not just saying that as his proud father,” the elder Cota said Thursday. “You can ask anyone and they’ll tell you Andy’s a smart, hard-working, trustworthy and honest person.”
But more importantly, the older Cota said, his son is a “constant reader.”
“That’s his biggest hobby. He’s always reading something and the subjects are so diversified—biographies, management, history, science,” said the older Cota, who has authored both a fiction and non-fiction book in the last few years.
The interim chief said reading has helped him to better “understand problems” and devise possible solutions.