NEW CANAAN — Kevin Moynihan didn’t expect to win the Republican caucus that solidified his place as the party’s first selectman candidate. However, the 36-year New Canaan resident said it was frustration that motivated him to run against incumbent Robert Mallozzi III.

Moynihan, 68, said he was particularly frustrated with the way Mallozzi handled bringing natural gas to New Canaan. He said the three-term selectman didn’t speak with Eversource about its plans for a gas expansion in town.

“I decided (to run because of that) and a few other reasons, like cell service, which I wasn’t too happy with the way that had been handled,” Moynihan said. “I wanted to at least change his mind on some things, if not beat him. I didn’t really expect to beat him. Everyone was surprised by the result of the caucus.”

Moynihan secured the GOP nomination by only 10 votes, but Mallozzi announced he would not attempt to force a primary to challenge him.

Moynihan, who is finishing up his first term on the Town Council, said he decided to vie for the town’s top political spot to improve the town’s cell service, revitalize the downtown business district and add commuter parking. With a hyper-focus on these three issues, the retired attorney is hoping to lend his legal experience to solving these problems in town.

Moynihan and his family moved to New Canaan in 1981, when he was transferred to the New York City office of A.G. Becker, where he was working at the time. He said his family considered moving to New Jersey, but was drawn to New Canaan for its low mortgage rates.

Until his retirement in 2009, Moynihan commuted into Manhattan and experienced the struggle of finding commuter parking firsthand. During his early commuter days, he drove to Darien to ride the train because the train ran more frequently and parking was more abundant. Now, Moynihan would like to deck the Lumberyard railroad lot, which studies show would generate 250 additional spaces, as opposed to the potential decking of the Locus Avenue lot, which would only add 80 spaces.

Moynihan said with commuter fees, the Lumberyard lot decking would pay for itself. It also would help with the lack of parking downtown, which in turn, Moynihan said, would help local businesses, another priority of his should he take office next year.

“We have an issue where we don’t have a high vacancy rate, but a lot of the businesses are suffering, partially related to parking,” he said. “If people can’t conveniently get to the shops or restaurants, they get frustrated, stop coming or go elsewhere. A number of businesses in town are struggling.”

Moynihan said many local businesses are suffering from high rent, something out of the first selectman’s control, but he’d like to help revitalize the downtown by improving parking, working with the Chamber of Commerce and acting as an ambassador for New Canaan as a place for economic development.

Moynihan’s top priority should he win the race for first selectman is improving cell service throughout the town.

“Cell service is the top priority because it’s a matter of public safety,” he said. “I consider that to be the hardest, but most important issue to deal with. I’d begin to deal directly with the carriers, which the incumbent first selectman has not chosen to do. He wants to deal through intermediaries. The carriers want to service their customers and it’s their capital that’s going to be invested. You have to work with them directly. They will not fight legal battles with neighbors or lawyers.”

Moynihan said the issue is the first he’d tackle in office. He said his top priority is getting people on board by informing the public how the problem is going to be solved, as well as connecting with cell service companies directly.

“I’d try to clarify to the public what needs to be done to solve the cell service problem,” he said. “I’m going to insist everyone be aware we have a four corners solution (restoring service to all spots of town). We’re going to try to solve it all at the same time.”

Moynihan’s approach to the first selectman role is to put his energies into these issues and maintain the momentum of the town.

“I don’t have a lot of things on my agenda other than the big ones because you can’t divide your attention to too many things,” he said. “Fortunately, the town itself runs very well. The schools are excellent. We have a terrific superintendent. Our fire chief, our police chief, our human resources director for the town ... we have very good management at the professional level. Those things almost run themselves. I’m not going to get involved in things that are running well.”

ekayata@hearstmediact.com; @erin_kayata