SOMERVILLE, NJ - One by one, retiring Somerset County Sheriff Frank Provenzano walked down the double-line of his officers assembled outside the Somerset County Administration building Monday and shook each of their hands as he said his final good-byes after 18 years on the job.
The ceremonial "walk out" was held outside Provenzano''s office n the Fallen Officer Memorial Promenade alongside the Somerset County Administration building.
It was the final day in a law enforcement career that spanned more than 50 years; the first time he pinned on a badge was in 1968 as a rookie cop in Bridgewater. He served on the force until 2001 when he ran for Somerset County Sheriff.
Provenzano, a Republican, chose to retire this year rather than running for a seventh term; he endorsed North Plainfield Police Chief William Parenti in November's election; he was defeated by Democrat Darrin Russo, a former Franklin Township police lieutenant, who will now take over as Somerset County Sheriff.
Provenzano reflected upon some of his accomplishments during his 18-year tenure serving Somerset County. “I’m proud of the initiatives that my team and I have instituted during my employment at the county,” he said. “My staff’s collaboration and teamwork have helped make it possible for us to begin many valuable community programs that have been very successful.”
Some of the programs that they have implemented include the K-9 Unit, Project Lifesaver, RX Drop-off, HERO for designated-drivers, the Special Response Team, the Gang Unit, a senior safety program, a school resource officer who was assigned to the Vocational and Technology High School, the Weekend Service Program for inmates, child seat installation and other child safety programs, the Sheriff’s Color Guard, the Adopt-A-Road program and Toys for Tots.
“It has been an honor to have served the residents of Somerset County, and I have enjoyed working in this honorable profession for the past 51 years. As I say good-bye, I am confident that the staff will uphold and adhere to their oath of allegiance for the greater good our residents.” Provenzano said.
Provenzano closed out his career officiating at ceremonies earlier this month with the swearing-in of new officers, promotions, awards and proclamations to members of the Sheriff's Office and members of the public.
Superior Court Judge Thomas C. Miller swore in the following new and promoted officers:
PROMOTIONS – LAW ENFORCEMENT DIVISION
Capt. Al Santoro of Hunterdon – A 22-year veteran of the Somerset County Sherriff’s Office, he was a sheriff’s officer, a sergeant and lieutenant.
Lt. Richard Fedora of Manville – After graduating from Manville High School and then John H. Stamler Police Academy, he began his career with the Sheriff’s Office where he served on the Detective Bureau as a sergeant.
Sgt. Peter Kocsi of Bridgewater – During his employment with the Sheriff’s Office, he helped institute the RX Drop-off medicine collection program, was employed at the Detective Bureau, was a basic firearms instructor, and is a New Jersey State Police Tac Officer, and a Glock Armorer.
NEW HIRES – LAW ENFORCEMENT DIVISION
Officer Alan August of Bridgewater – He received his bachelor’s and master’s degree in criminal justice from New Jersey City University, and graduated from Mercer County Police Academy. He was a noncommissioned officer in the Army National Guard and a first lieutenant for the 250th Brigade Support Battalion in Morristown. After serving as a Somerset County Corrections Officer, he transferred to the Law Enforcement Division.
Officer Anthony Aurelio of Middlesex – After earning his associates degree in criminal justice from Middlesex County College, and a bachelor’s degree in national security from New Jersey University, he then graduated from Mercer County Police Academy. He also volunteered at the Edison Police Auxiliary and worked as a dispatcher at the Cranford Police Department.
Officer Michael Kromar of Phillipsburg – He graduated from Raritan Valley Community College with a degree in criminal justice, and then Mercer County Police Academy. He also served as a Somerset County Sheriff’s Cadet.
Officer Tristan O’Connor of Middlesex – After graduating from Middlesex County College and then the Cape May Police Academy, he joined the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office in 2019.
Officer Sean Simpson of Clark – He graduated from Union County College where he earned a degree in criminal justice. He was an auxiliary police officer at the Rahway Police Department and a court attendant at the Rahway Municipal Court.
Officer Kyle Kolvites of Hunterdon – After interning at the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office, he received his criminal justice degree from Raritan Valley Community College and graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and psychology. He later graduated from the Camden County Police Academy.
PROMOTIONS – CORRECTIONS DIVISION
Cpl. Edward Zuza of Manville – After earning his degree from Raritan Valley Community College, he then attended the Somerset County Police Academy where he received a Sharp Shooter Award. He has also been a firearms instructor, field-training officer, and a certified less-lethal operator, an active shooter instructor and a hostage negotiator. He served on the Correctional Response Team, the Sheriff’s Office Response Team, and the Somerset County SWAT Team.
NEW HIRES – CORRECTIONS DIVISION
Corrections Officer Christopher Carlucci of North Plainfield – He attended the Somerset County Technical Institute where he received a degree in commercial art. Later, he graduated with honors at the Art Institute of Philadelphia where he earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial design.
Corrections Officer Devin Gardner of Bridgewater – After studying law and public safety at Somerset County Vocational and Technology High School, he attended the College of Saint Elizabeth where he studied criminal justice.
Corrections Officer Francisco Garita – Formerly a state correctional police officer with the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission, he also was a member of the New Jersey Police Training Commission at the Corrections Academy. He is a certified active shooter responder and has been trained for managing narcotics and gang-related crimes.
Corrections Officer Thomas Puhak – He was a security officer at Citi Group, was employed at the Juvenile Justice Commission at Seagirt New Jersey Training Academy, and was employed at the New Jersey Training School for troubled youths. Earlier this year he joined the Corrections Division at the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office.
Corrections Officer Steven Santangelo of Montgomery – He graduated from Mercer County Community College and then attended Thomas Edison State University where he received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He then graduated from Ocean County Police Academy. He also trained at the Somerset County Emergency Services Training Academy and volunteered at the Montgomery Fire Department.
Corrections Officer Mark Walyga of Manville – He served on the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Expeditionary Unit for the United States Navy, the Disposal Expeditionary Unit 5 in Guam, and served on the largest military establishment in Rota, Spain.
Corrections Officer Mackenzie Weber of Warren County – He graduated from the County College of Morris with a degree in Criminal Justice.
Corrections Officer Joseph Winter of High Point – He attended Sussex County Community College and graduated with a degree in graphic design. He also received a degree in film and animation from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He was a 911 dispatcher at the Morris County Communications Center, and a security officer at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital.
Provenzano also presented the following awards:
LAW ENFORCEMENT AWARDS
Sheriff’s Recognition Awards – The staff at the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office were recognized for planning the Somerset County Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony that was recently held at Veterans Memorial Plaza in honor of Somerset County’s Law Enforcement Officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. The recipients of the award included Sheriff’s Officers Samuel Annuzzi and Joseph Bialiy; Sgt. Christopher Ouellette; and Administrative Assistant of Civilian Staff Jack Quinn who is also a retired corrections captain.
Other Sheriff’s Recognition Awards – K-9 Officer Shannon Snook received an award for rescuing two residents and two animals from a house fire when she was off-duty. Sheriff’s Officers Karissa Hahn and Adam Tomassacci also were recognized for apprehending, subduing and transporting a juvenile to safety.
SHERIFF’S RECOGNITION CIVILIAN AWARDS
Greg Backman of the Somerset County Graphics Division was recognized for his outstanding artistic vision when planning, coordinating and creating the Fallen Officer Memorial, and for creating the Memorial Keepsake Program.
Kelly Moore of the Somerset County Printing Services received an award for his dedication and expertise to his craft, and his team’s efforts for successfully meeting deadlines, which helped make the Fallen Officer Memorial Ceremony and the Outstanding Keepsake Program a success.
Civilian ID Officers Barbara Cole, Nicole Del Vecchio and Cosmo Tomar received awards for using their exceptional Bureau of Criminal Investigation skills, which helped the Bridgewater Police Department apprehend an individual who was arrested on an unrelated charge.
SHERIFF’S RECOGNITION CORRECTIONS AWARDS
The following Somerset County Sheriff’s staff was recognized for their participation in the 2019 Unity tour, which is a bike expedition that supports law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty: Sgt. Jonathan Lai; and Corrections Officers Adam Goldenberg, Ryan Mershon, and Joseph Steinau; and K-9 Sheriff’s Officer Shannon Snook.
Recognition Awards were also given to the participants of the 2019 Special Olympics Torch Run. Recipients included Corrections Officers Karen Decator, Napoleon Freeman, Daniela Hernandez, Adam Laverde, Roberto Ortega and Christian Perez. Also recognized were Sheriff’s Officers Joseph Bialiy, Patrick Hoben, Michael Lester, Tristan O’Connor, Steven Pagano, Eric Rogus, Adrian Romero, Walter Sliwa and Adam Tomassacci; Detectives Giacomo Crismale, Frank Figel and Brendan Gattone; and K-9 Officer Al Bauer and Cadet Jordan Kaplan.
SHERIFF’S SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARDS
Corrections officers received recognition for going above and beyond the call of duty and risking personal safety to save the life of an inmate in terminal crisis. Recipients of the awards included Christopher Bizup, Rob Bobrowski, Grace Bylina, Karen Decator, Keith Moran, Latasha Tukes, Paul Whitenight and Rob Willard. Also recognized were Sgt. Anthony Davia and Cpl. Jason Goodman.
“I want to recognize Undersheriff Colonel Roy Gandolfe and Warden Charles O’Neill who will be retiring from our law enforcement community,” Provenzano.said. “I also want to thank them for their years of dedicated service at the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office.