New Fire Chief Keith Weaver, who took the helm on March 1, has been with the department for almost 30 years and is in high gear three weeks into his new gig.
“Chief Rogers did an excellent job of running the department,” he told the Bayonne Community News. “I want to continue to operate in a cost efficient manner. We will be looking at all policies and procedures to make sure we are operating to our full potential.”
He said he will analyze each bureau and division.
He also wants to team up with partners in the community. “I’m hoping those programs will come to fruition,” adding that we can look forward to an announcement with they do.
Our sister publication, Bayonne: Life on the Peninsula, featured Bayonne’s first female firefighter on the cover. Continually diversifying the department is also on Weaver’s radar. “We received the new civil service list,” he said, “and will take a close look. Women are near the top, and there is a potential for more female firefighters, depending on availability and retirements.”
Mayor James Davis praised Weaver’s passion for his profession, especially during a period when Bayonne has seen a spike in the number and severity of fires.
“His professionalism, management skills, planning techniques, and knowledge of fire-suppression are second to none,” Davis said.
Weaver graduated from Marist High School and has a Bachelors Degree in Fire Science and a Master’s of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from New Jersey City University.
He was appointed to the Bayonne Fire Department in 1990 and rose through the ranks of lieutenant, captain, battalion chief, and deputy chief. As deputy chief, he oversaw the day-to-day operations, safety, training, and activity of the department under the direction of former Chief Gregory Rogers. In 2010, he was appointed as coordinator of the Bayonne Office of Emergency Management.
Standing on ceremony
It was a tale of two chiefs; one who spent eight years upgrading and bringing innovations to his department, and another who hopes to build on those achievements.
On Friday, March 4, outgoing Fire Chief Gregory Rogers ceremonially handed over the department to Weaver. The exchange was made at a fire department promotional program in the City Council Chambers. The handoff ended an emotional week for Rogers, who on Monday, Feb. 29 was honored with a surprise ceremony at the new Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor firehouse, which Rogers had worked hard to build. He officially retired on Tuesday, March 1.
Included at the Feb. 29 ceremony was the Number Four Engine, the fire truck he served on as a firefighter and lieutenant, visits from former firefighters and associates, and many current City Hall workers.
“It was just a nice ceremonial thing,” Rogers said. “It was very exciting and I was very appreciative of it. I didn’t anticipate there being that many people there.”
Rogers was also honored at “Bayonne, My Town!” Night at the New Jersey Devils’ home rink, the Prudential Center in Newark on March 1.
Rogers’s retirement was the culmination of a 35-year firefighting career and a rise through the ranks to become the 10th fire chief in the department’s history. He led it for nearly eight years.
Rogers officially announced his retirement at the Bayonne City Council meeting on Feb. 17, where a resolution was passed approving his separation agreement with the city.
Council President Sharon Nadrowski and others thanked Rogers for his years of service.
“It comes with a heavy heart and great memories, tremendous memories,” Rogers said. “I thank all of you and bid you farewell.”
“His professionalism, management skills, planning techniques, and knowledge of fire-suppression are second to none.” – Mayor James Davis
Record of accomplishment
Rogers said he took great pride in leaving his post with the city’s firefighters better trained than ever before and with experienced leadership coming up the ranks.
He pointed to a number of accomplishments: establishing a revenue improvement initiative that resulted in the acquisition of $10.6 million for equipment and training, being a part of the building of the first new free-standing Bayonne firehouse in nearly 80 years, creating a marine task force for specialized water rescue, and improving Bayonne’s hazmat unit. He gave his fellow firefighters credit for giving him support to get those things done.
He takes personal satisfaction in bringing on Cailin Brodel, the city’s first female firefighter, bringing on and training a new generation of firefighters, seeing those under his watch improve as professionals, and being a part of the special relationship between him and his firefighters.
“It’s the camaraderie of the firefighters. And now, we have the first female firefighter,” Rogers said. “We’re a brotherhood. When you wind up in a difficult situation, then you begin to realize why it’s a brotherhood. You have each others’ lives in your hands.”
Rogers never forgot the faith that was bestowed on him when he was named fire chief.
“I was always honored and humbled to have that opportunity, and I gave it everything I had,” he said. “I worked long and hard hours. That job for me was seven days a week for eight years. I served the community and protected the 65,000 people who live here.”
A well-qualified replacement
Edoardo “Junior” Ferrante Jr. was named to succeed Weaver as OEM coordinator by Davis. Ferrante had served as deputy OEM coordinator since last year.
“Since his appointment in early 2015, Junior has skillfully assisted the city during times of emergency and recovery operations,” Davis said.
Ferrante works for Verizon Communications and is the manager/lead for the New York City emergency 911 program, working closely with the New York Police Department, New York Fire Department, and Department of Homeland Security.
He is a graduate of Bayonne High School and holds a Bachelors Degree from New Jersey City University and a Masters in Business Administration from Wagner College in Staten Island.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.