RARITAN, NJ - Although William Mener is actually a Branchburg resident, he has found pride in serving the residents of Raritan for almost 30 years as a member of the fire company.
William Mener, former fire chief for Relief Hose Company No. 2, was honored at the Raritan Borough reorganization meeting as the recipient of the 2015 Nicholas Esposito Volunteer of the Year Award.
“Serving the residents, business owners and guests of Raritan, along with having multiple opportunities to work with the governing body to help ensure the safety of everyone and their property, [has been most rewarding],” he said. “On two occasions, I have been lucky enough to lead a group of dedicated firefighters, and to have had their respect means a great deal to me.”
“Their dedication and enthusiasm in the fire service makes Raritan a very safe place to live, conduct business and visit,” he added.
Mayor Jo-Ann Liptak presented Mener with the award during the reorganization meeting, and cited his service to the town, including being honored for bravery for battling a fire during the height of Superstorm Sandy, and aiding a resident stuck in flood waters during another storm.
“He knows there is a need, and is more than willing to help on any occasion,” she said. “The most impressive part is that he is not even a Raritan resident.”
Mener joined the fire company in 1986 when he turned 21 years old.
As a teenager, he said, he worked at Somerset Bowlerama, where Toys-R-Us is now in Raritan. While there, he struck up a friendship with Bruce Lindner, a fellow employee and long-time member of the fire department, who started trying to recruit him when he was 18.
“Not only was I working almost every night, I was practicing every day and spending all of my free time there,” Mener said. “Since I was still attending college at NJIT in Newark and commuting daily, adding another activity wasn’t a possibility.”
In his senior year of college, Mener said, Lindner tried harder to recruit him.
“Bruce dialed up the pressure and said the fire company needed another bowler for the bowling team and a left fielder for the softball team, but the only way I could participate was to join,” Mener said. “By that point, Bruce and I had a pretty strong friendship, so I agreed.”
Over the years, Mener has served several posts in the fire company, starting as second assistant foreman from 1994 to 1995, and first assistant foreman from 1995 to 1996. He was then foreman from 1996 to 1998 and assistant fire chief from 1997 to 1998.
Mener’s first term as fire chief was from 1998 to 1999, and he then served as treasurer from 2005 to 2008, captain from 2008 to 2011 and assistant fire chief from 2012 to 2013. His latest stint as fire chief was from 2013 to 2014, and he is now serving as secretary.
“I am currently serving as the company secretary and also serving as the treasurer for two other associations within the company,” he said. “At some point in the spring or summer of 2015, I would like to start driving the fire apparatus again once I am re-qualified.”
Mener said it is difficult to manage family life, work and the fire department, and it often becomes a juggling act to make it all work.
“Family and work already take considerable time, and, depending on how involved you get with volunteering, you need to be able to squeeze that much more valuable time out of your busy schedule,” he said.
Mener said his biggest asset is his wife, Donna.
“[She] understands how important being a firefighter is to me and how quickly plans change when the pager activates and your training and expertise are requested,” he said. “Without her continued understanding and support, I would have never graduated through the ranks to the pinnacle of fire chief.”
Mener said he is proud to serve the people of Raritan.
“Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many people here in Raritan and the respect given to me and the fire company has been incredible,” he said. “I lost track of how many times I have been thanked by residents and business owners while shopping, dining or just walking down Somerset Street.”
“Raritan truly is ‘a friendly town of friendly people,’” he added.