NEW CANAAN — Police Capt. Vincent DeMaio says change is often good.

The 26-year veteran of the town force is retiring March 31 and taking over as chief of the Clinton Police Department. Clinton is a town of about 13,000 people on Long Island Sound east of New Haven.

“It’s a little bit of mixed emotions,” DeMaio said of his departure. “I’ve been here pretty much my entire adult life. I started at 22 years old, so I’ve been a New Canaan police officer longer than I haven’t.”

DeMaio grew up in Stamford and joined the New Canaan force reluctantly, and only after some friendly persuasion.

“I never even wanted to take the test here in New Canaan,” DeMaio said. “I had a friend that prodded me to take the test with him, and I ended up getting the job and he didn’t.”

But any reluctance on DeMaio’s part soon evaporated. Over the course of more than a quarter-century in New Canaan, DeMaio filled many roles, included patrol officer, dispatcher, patrol sergeant, training officer, detective in the investigative division, patrol lieutenant, investigations commander and captain of operations.

DeMaio also served as the department’s accreditation manager, ensuring the department’s successful reaccreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. He also is a CALEA assessor, evaluating other agencies, and a member of the executive board of the Police Association of Connecticut.

In adddition to his police work, DeMaio made time to further his education, receiving a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of New Haven.

“He’s come up through the ranks,” Police Chief Leon Krolikowski said. “His experience, his skills and leadership abilities are very valuable. He’s helped me shape the department to what is is today.”

DeMaio’s new post is noteworthy, the chief said.

“It’s pretty rare, actually, that we have someone retire and become a chief somewhere else,” Krolikowski said. “I don’t think it’s ever happened during the time that I’ve been here.”’

“It’s a big loss for us. it’s not easy to replace somebody with as much experience,” Krolikowski said. “But it’s a great opportunity for him and his family.”

And though DeMaio is looking forward to his role at the helm of the Clinton Police Department, he said he won’t soon forget his roots as an officer in New Canaan.

“I’ve come to think of everybody here as family, not only in the department, but in the town,” he said. “It’s going to be a little strange to leave that.”

justin.papp@scni.com; newcanaannewsonline.com