MAPLEWOOD, NJ – On a night dedicated to the service of fire fighters in Maplewood, over 300 residents packed the Municipal Building to witness two members of the department take an oath of office officially installing them in their new role at a Township Committee meeting on Tuesday night.
Captain Michael Dingelstedt was promoted to deputy chief of the Maplewood Fire Department and fire fighter John Kozak was promoted to captain of the department. Both men were sworn in by township clerk Elizabeth J. Fritzen before a loud standing applause from everyone in the room.
“I continue to work with the best of the best in the Maplewood Fire Department. I’m thankful for that opportunity,” Dingelstedt said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity presented with my promotion and I look forward.... to moving the department forward in the future,” he continued.
Kozak also thanked the department and the community before signing the oath of office for his new position.
“I strive to be the best I can and do everything in my ability when I come to work. We’ve (the Maplewood Fire Department) made a lot of progress and I will continue to make progress,” Kozak said.
Department Chief Joseph Richardella was also present at the meeting and mentioned that both Dingelstedt and Kozak were very worthy of their promotions. He also said that tonight was a special night because it was a time when the Maplewood fire fighter of the year award would be presented.
That award was given, most deservingly so, to fire fighter Joe Callaghan who, among many other services, recently donated one of his kidneys to retired, ill Maplewood fire fighter Greg Snell; effectively saving his life while putting his own at risk.
“In the fire service we use words like courage, honor, integrity, kindness, bravery and sacrifice. When I first learned what this fireman did all of those words came to mind,” Chief Richardella said.
After Callaghan was presented with the award before an almost deafening applause, he admitted that he was not prepared to receive this recognition tonight.
“I have to tell you, I honestly didn’t know this was going to happen tonight. In all honesty it was a very easy decision,” Callaghan said. “To see him (Snell) that ill, it was the easiest decision I ever made. I don’t regret it one bit. I love my job and I would have done it for any one of these guys (fire fighters),” Callaghan said.
In other news, township committee member and deputy mayor for the environment Fred R. Profeta sat on the board in his second to last meeting before he officially retires at the end of December.
Profeta, known for voicing his diverse opinions on many different issues over the years in the town, has had many roles in his nine year tenure as a Maplewood Township committee member. He has sat on the environmental advisory committee, the shared services committee and was chairman of the green team, among several other positions.
At Tuesday’s meeting school officials, board members and residents thanked Profeta for his services over the past several years.
“I’ve always admired and respected your points of view even if I did not agree with all of them. I wish you the best in your future endeavors,” Michael Goldberg of the South Orange Board of Trustees said.
“You have given children the great gift of growing up in a diverse community. That is a wonderful gift and I thank you for being a strong supporter of public education,” Superintendent of the South Orange/Maplewood School District Brian Osborne said.
Profeta thanked everyone for their comments and supports, citing it has “been a great pleasure” to be part of the township committee.
Township committee members will have a chance to speak of Profeta at the next meeting, according to Mayor Victor DeLuca.
Later in the meeting, Vice Mayor Kathleen Leventhal brought up the idea for Maplewood to instill an ordinance to not allow smoking in many public places within the town, namely in public parks. After some discussion it was decided that a health expert would be brought in to a future meeting to talk about different aspects of this topic.