MILLBURN, NJ - The Township Committee meeting opened to a packed house on Tuesday evening to welcome new Fire Chief Robert Echavarria and to honor departing Chief J. Michael Roberts. Echavarria assumes the mantle of Chief after a long career with the Millburn Fire Department. Business Administrator Alex McDonald gave a brief history of Echavarria's numerous accomplishments as a 22 year veteran of the department.
A resident since eight years old Echavarria joined the Millburn Fire Department as a volunteer a year after graduating Millburn High School. Later he was promoted to Fire Captain and then as Fire Marshall where he was in charge of fire prevention for the township. During his tenure as Marshall, he worked tirelessly to enhance the fire education program and set up the juvenile fire centers program among a lengthy lists of other accomplishments.
He then returned to the line as Company Officer, and in June 2007 was named Battalion Chief assuming the role of Corp Commander. Taking on the role of Deputy OEM Coordinator in 2016 he achieved the New Jersey certified managers designation. For the past year he also took on the administrative Chief duties and worked with departing Chief Roberts in preparation for this transition of power.
Echavarria's accolades extend beyond the fire house. He is also an New Jersey certified EMT, Fire Inspector, and Fire Official as well as Certified Public Manager and is a member of the Metro Strike Team and Urban Security Initiative.
After a swift and unanimous vote by the Township Committee on his appointment, Echavarria was joined by his wife Sarah who held the Bible for his oath of office as his three sons Robert, Ryan and Christian looked on as he was sworn in as Fire Chief. His father Edgar, sister Yvette and fellow firefighter brother Edgar all were on hand among the standing room only crowd for the occasion. After the swearing in his wife pinned on his new shield to another round of thunderous applause.
Chief Gilfedder from the Millburn Police Department joined Fire Chiefs from many surrounding towns including Livingston, Hillside and Maplewood to send off Roberts and welcome Echavarria.
The swearing in followed a tribute and proclamation to honor the departing Fire Chief J. Michael Roberts. With his wife Mary Ellen, son Allen and daughter Melissa in the audience among other friends and family, Roberts received the accolades from Committeeman Robert Tillotson.
Roberts remarked "I do want to thank the Township Committee, many of which I worked with over the years, my good friend and former boss Tim Gordon and of course Alex McDonald who have helped me throughout. Leadership starts at the top and it truly starts at the Township Committee and Township Administrator, and I do want to thank you for that." He also joked that he hoped the new street was going to be named for him.
"I want to thank you all very much," Roberts concluded, "and I'm glad we are promoting Rob so we can fill the room with people."