NEWTON, NJ—With the announcement of not only Chief Michael Richards retiring but also Lt. Mark Zappa, the police department had several promotions from within the ranks for new leadership in 2020.
It was a packed house for the annual re-organization meeting of the Newton Town Council at which the three officers Chief Robert E Osborn Jr., Lt. Michael Monaco and Sgt. Michael Wolanski were sworn in.
Chief Osborn was first to take his oath, accompanied by his wife Karen and their 2 sons, Trey and Cael. He was born and raised in Newton to Robert and Margaret Osborn and was the youngest of the five children to attend Newton Public Schools. He is part of the graduating class of 1983.
In 1986, Osborn graduated from the County College of Morris with an associate degree and from York College of Pennsylvania in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science Degree. Both degrees were in Criminal Justice. Not long after, he was hired on at the Newton Police Department, where he served as a full-time police dispatcher and crossing guard.
In May of 1990, he was hired as a police officer by Chief Larry Romyns and in December of that same year, he graduated from the Somerset County Police Academy where he was the recipient of the Chief Richard R. Ryan Physical Fitness Award for attaining the highest level of physical fitness during recruit training, as well as the State of New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Certificate of Merit Award for being the recruit who, in the opinion of class members, displayed those qualities of scholarship and leadership that are indicative of exceptional future professional performance in law enforcement.
For the next decade, he worked in the Patrol Division while also serving as the Department’s D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Officer before being assigned to the Detective Bureau in 2000. Chief Osborn then became the Department’s first School Resource Officer and Community Policing Officer before being promoted to Patrol Sergeant in 2002.
Subsequently, he advanced to the rank of Lieutenant in 2006 and was the Operations Divisions Commander for the last 13 years where his responsibilities included: Scheduling and supervision of the patrol division, OPRA Police Records Custodian, Liaison for the municipal and state courts and Manager of the departmental performance evaluation system.
He also conducted internal affairs investigations, accident report review and supervised special events. Chief Osborn is a certified Field Training Officer, a Public Information Officer and Past Treasurer of the Sussex County PBA Local 138.
After being sworn in, Chief Osborn said a few words to all those that attended as well as the Newton Town Council.
“I would like to thank the council and the town manager for their trust in me as selecting me as the new Chief. It is not something I take lightly, and I am very appreciative of that. Most importantly, I want to thank my family; my wife Karen, my son Trey and my son Cael. They have been patient, loving, understanding and supporting throughout this whole process and throughout my career. I am so lucky to have them in my life. Next, I want to thank my parents, Bob and Margaret Osborn. Unfortunately, they have since passed, but I know that they raised me with a strong conviction, and they taught me what was important in life and for that I am very grateful. To my extended family that is here tonight, along with my friends, my neighbors and my fellow police officers, and police chiefs, I can say that now, both past and present. I’m looking around now and I can see a lot of present, but I also see a lot of past and present may not know the past, but I am kind of a link to both. I am fortunate to have you all here tonight, it means a lot to me, that you took the time out of your schedules to share in this moment and be here for me. Your friendship is not something I take for granted, it is something that I value, so thanks for coming tonight.”
Chief Osborn acknowledge all his fellow officers that were in attendance that night from the Newton Police department, past and present, “ for their daily work that they do every day, day in and day out, I don’t think that they get the credit that they deserve and I know what these guys and girls do every day and I appreciate it… after I have been here for 31 years, I have gotten to know all those who work at 39 Trinity street very well and I consider myself very fortunate to work amongst them. They say a leader is only as good as the people he is lucky enough to serve with, and I am very, very, fortunate to work with the people right here, that you see in front of you and around you.”
Unbeknownst to either of them, Chief Osborn called up former Chief Michael Richards and retiring Lt. Zappa to say a few words to them as well.
“We’ve been friends and co-workers for a long time here. We were patrolmen that ended up living together in the same house, and who knew fast forward down the line 25 years that we would be in the positions that we are. We navigated a lot of tough times together and we mad eit through the other side, well at least two of us have. I wanted to thank them right here in the public forum, for the time that they’ve invested, the efforts that they’ve made, the sacrifices that they have made and most importantly the contributions to their community.”
“I just wanted to end by saying that being raised in this town, is very special to me,” Chief Osborn said, “to come back here and be Chief in the town that you were born and raised is something that I value and I will always treasure and I appreciate it so much for your confidence in selecting me for this.”
Lt. Michael Monaco was sworn in next, accompanied by his long-time girlfriend Wendy Huffman. He is the son of Joseph and Rosalie Monaco of Newton and brother to Joseph Monaco of Columbia, and Janet (Monaco) Crocker of Southbury, CT. He currently lives in Andover Township with Huffman.
Lt. Monaco was also born and raised in Newton and attended the Merriam Avenue and Halsted St. schools before graduating from Newton High School in 1988. He went on to attend the Morris and Sussex County Community Colleges before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology/Criminal Justice from Bloomfield (NJ) College in 1993.
He started his law enforcement career as a police dispatcher with the Andover Township Police Department in January of 1990, before being hired as a police dispatcher by Newton Police Chief James Kilduff in February of 1992.
In July of 1993, Lt. Monaco graduated from the Cape May County Police Academy as a Class II Special Police Officer. He continued to work as both a dispatcher and SLEO II officer until he was hired as a full-time police officer in June of 1996 by Chief Michael Meeker. He graduated from the 193rd Municipal Police class at the New Jersey State Police Academy at Sea Girt, NJ in June of 1996 and served as a Patrolman for the next several years.
In June of 2000, Chief Meeker assigned Lt. Monaco to the multi-agency “Sussex County Narcotics Task Force” where he worked as a Detective. He remained there until December 2001 before returning to regular patrol duty.
In May of 2005 he was assigned by Chief John Tomasula to the Detective Bureau where he remained until March of 2006. In March of 2006, he was promoted to the rank of Police Sergeant and re-assigned back to Patrol Division where he remained until October of 2010, before being re-assigned to the Detective Bureau by Chief Michael Richards as the Detective Sergeant. He remained in that capacity until April of 2011.
Lt. Monaco has been involved in numerous duties and assignments which include being the lead Firearms Instructor, a Drug Recognition Expert and Field Training Officer and has expressed that “he is excited to face the challenges presented by the promotion to Police Lieutenant and is confident that the transition will be made easier with the cooperation of the high-quality men and women of the Newton Police Department. Their devotion to public service continues to be paramount and is the backbone of the Police culture here in Newton.
“It is kind of hard to stand up in front of everyone, I had a speech written and I just thought oh it will be easy and I will just rattle it off, but you start seeing faces of people you care about, it’s pretty humbling. I would first like to thank the town council members, the town manager, the mayor, chief Michael Richards, Chief Robert Osborn and my fellow men and women of the Newton Police Department, without their ongoing support and cooperation, this exciting transition that our department is going through, would be extremely difficult. Thank you to Wendy for her continued support of me and her understanding of the many difficulties and challenges associated with this career, she’s been with me every step of the way. To my parents, for their unwavering support of me even when they did not exactly agree with my decision to enter law enforcement. To my family and friends, a couple of my buddies came from a long way away to be here, thank you for coming to celebrate this grand occasion.”
Once Lt. Monaco was done, Chief Osborn came back up to say a few words about him as well. “He was also born and raised here in Newton and so we have a lot of shared experiences and stories from growing up. I can tell you that he was also raised with close family ties, and a work ethic that was demonstrated for him by his parents, and that is an attribute that he has taken on. He is very diligent when he comes to work and something we can always rely on. His strength lies from patrol, and by that, I mean he was a patrol officer, and I know he did other things in his career, but that is where I think his strength lies, and then he was a patrol sergeant and it is not by accident that in that role, he is one of few people here in this department that was selected as a field training officer, a job that both he and I take very seriously, because that really dictates the future of our department. He has a knack for doing that, leading and mentoring and guiding our young officers to develop into strong police officers, not just within the department but within the community. So, when this position opened up, it made sense that he would be the officer that should supervise the patrol division as the operations supervisor. He has worked very hard over the years; this is something that he has pursued, and he will tell you that himself if you ask. It is nice to see someone work through the difficulties you encounter in the course of your career, and sometimes your timeline doesn’t coincide with the town’s timeline or the department’s timeline, but he stayed the course and stuck with it persevered and for that he is being rewarded tonight as Lieutenant. Congratulations.”
Sgt. Michael Wolanski was the last of the three to be sworn in during the meeting. He was accompanied by his wife Lisa, who he married in 2012 and was instantly blessed with two stepsons, Michael and Jeffrey and noe five grandchildren. His brother Robert resides in Dix Hills, Long Island with his sister-in-law Marie and his nephew Matthew.
Sgt. Wolanski was born and raised in New York to Margaret and Robert Wolanski. He attended high school at Floral Park Memorial High and college at Binghamton University with a major in accounting. He moved to Newton in 1995 and worked as a financial analyst in
Princeton and in Mountain Lakes.
In January 2001, He was sworn in as a full-time police officer by Chief John Tomasula and was assigned to the patrol division.
During his time in the patrol division, he has been involved in community policing initiatives that were focused on bicycle safety, giving talks to the Youth Corps at Project Self Sufficiency, serving as the liaison for the Domestic Violence Response Team, and investigating all firearms applications.
“Thank you to the chief and Lt. for setting the bar really high with the speeches, but thank you chief, town council, and town manager. Thank you to all my family and my work family who are here today. In particular, my mother who has always believed in me and my wonderful wife Lisa who quite honestly is the best part of me. So, a few weeks ago, Mr. Russo called me into his office, where i was going to find out who was going to be the next sergeant. Needless to say it was a very long drive in, very stressful and the reason being that the other two police officers that I was being considered with Dan Finkle and Joseph D’Annibale are extremely talented officers, which makes this day all the more humbling for me. So once Mr. Russo told me I was being promoted, it was an amazing moment, one I will never forget, but what made the moment even better was the fact that Chief Osborn and Lt. Monaco were in the room with me. It was very apropos because both gentleman in addition to former Captain Donofrio are three men who had a great influence over my career. Three men who understood that leadership is not about imposing authority but instead is about inspiring greatness. They would never allow me to give anything less than my best and for that I will always be indebted to them. So in closing, it is such a wonderful and great honor to be sworn in tonight as a sergeant, but to me, the bigger honor is being sworn in as a sergeant under this administration and coming from the patrol division, which I have such a great love and respect for. Thank you so much.”
Chief Osborn then came back up to talk to those in attendance a little about Sgt. Wolanski. “He took a different path into the town of Newton, as was said, he came from New York 19 years ago, and since that time has been active in the patrol division. As a senior officer, he has always attempted to provide guidance to junior officers and mentor them as they progress. He is also not one to shy away from doing work and he strives to accomplish the tasks that he has been assigned, most notably DBRT and firearms application. As someone who has done that, it is quote an undertaking. Throughout he has remained detailed oriented and focused on his responsibilities, whether it is conducting investigations, providing presentations numerous to community groups, or handling significant calls for service; he has risen to the occasion. He continues to provide assistance to department members such as myself, so the agency operates more efficiently and effectively, all while concentrating on obtaining his goal of becoming an effective supervisor. I know that Sgt. Wolanski will continue to work hard and put his best foot forward every day and that will lead him to be regarded as the capable and knowledgeable supervisor. Congratulations.”
Town manager Russo said a few words before the meeting went back to the normal agenda and was opened for public comment.
“I come into the office not too long ago and Chief Richards walks into my office with a piece of paper in his hand and I said, ‘this is not going to be a good day’ and I was right and the chief announced that he was retiring and to make matters worse, Lt. Mark Zappa was retiring so that is how I started out my Tuesday. Although I was saddened that Mike and Mark would be leaving the organization, I knew this would be an opportunity for other individuals in the department to move forward and advance in their careers. I began the process of meeting with individuals that would be impacted and mind you we’re a civil service community, so we have certain guidelines we have to work with. The thing that struck me through the process was that it was a difficult responsibility as the CEO of the organization to pick among this group, but boy was I blessed, and pardon me but I am a spiritual person, so I considered myself blessed that I had such a good group of individuals to pick from because some town managers don’t have that luxury and the thing that kept coming back to me as I was going through the interviews, running scenarios in my head, whether at work or home and I know everyone else was doing the same thing, but the thing I kept going back to was character, integrity and trust. We provide education, we provide training, love and support to our staff, I certainly do that with my employees but in the end, I had a list for Chief, Lieutenant, and for Sergeant of people with good character, good integrity and people who I trusted and whether you were promoted or not promoted this time around, I want all of you to know that I have great respect for the officers in the department because you have those three qualities and I wanted to recognize that and I wanted to thank Chief Richards and Lt. Zappa for their leadership because you made the process easier for me because of the leadership you’ve exhibited all these years that you gave me those options and opportunities. I want to congratulate those that were promoted and I want to thank those who were not promoted this time around because there will be other opportunities in the future, and thank you to everyone in the police department for serving and for committing your time, your talent, and your treasure, to the people of the town and thank your families as well, as I know the stress of this type of career on your families is tremendous, the sacrifices, the uncertainties that comes with these types of positions, and I want you to know that your boss, your council and your community recognizes that commitment and we love you for it and we support you and we are very grateful for the work that you do day in and day out.
The meeting was adjourned shortly after as there was no public comments and nothing up for discussion by any of the council members.