Maplewood Fire Chief Dingelstedt on His Retirement: ‘I’ve Been Blessed to Work With Best of the Best’

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Upon the announcement of his retirement, Maplewood Fire Chief Michael Dingelstedt read the following remarks to the Maplewood Township Committee on October 15, 2019. Dingelstedt was honored at the meeting with a proclamation (attached below) celebrating his many years of dedicated service. Michael Weber was sworn in as the new Maplewood Fire Chief on November 6, 2019. 

Michael Dingelstedt retired as Maplewood Fire Chief in October 2019.

Thank you, Mayor Vic DeLuca, Township Committee Liaison Greg Lembrich, Township Administrator Sonia Viveiros and members of the Township Committee. It is truly an honor and privilege to stand before you tonight and be recognized by the Township Committee. It’s very humbling to say the least. Thirty-eight years ago I was sworn in as a probationary firefighter in this room by clerk Liz Fritzen. A little less than seven years ago I was sworn in as chief of the department, reaching a goal I had set out to attain as a young firefighter.

A lot has happened in between.

When a person becomes a firefighter, they make a decision to put aside their personal lives on a daily basis and serve the citizens of the community in which they work. Serving the community in which I grew up is something I took great pleasure in. Throughout those 38 years, as I rose through the ranks, I was fortunate to serve as a union rep, department safety officer, fire investigator, fire inspector, fire official and deputy OEM coordinator, as well as Lieutenant, Captain, Deputy Chief and now Chief. I have seen the best of times, with people on their best days, and also the worst of times, trying to help people on their worst days. I had the unfortunate experience of living through two line of duty firefighter deaths in Maplewood, FF. Bob Cogan in 1983 and FF. Joe Gawlick in 1985. Honoring their memory made me work harder to become the best firefighter I could be. 

As you can imagine, there have been many changes in the department in 38 years. In 1981, the department responded to 651 alarms. Last year we responded to 4,275 requests for assistance. Staffing has been an issue. We have the consolidation resolution that will be read later in the meeting to address this. The governing body has to balance the needs of the department with the needs of the community and municipal budget.

I am grateful to the Township Committee in allowing me, for the most part, to maintain the table of organization by putting individuals in the fire academy prior to a retirement throughout my tenure as Chief. There have been changes in equipment, technology, mutual aid responses, to name a few.

Looking back on it all, the one constant throughout the years has been members of the Maplewood Fire Department. I have had the opportunity to work with, and then lead, the highest caliber of firefighters around. Their dedication and professionalism is second to none and I am proud to say I worked alongside them. I would like to ask all Maplewood firefighters in the room to please stand and be acknowledged.

I would like to thank Mayor DeLuca and the members of the Township committee for their support for the fire department. Thank you also for agreeing to promote a new Chief, Deputy Chief and three Captains, notwithstanding the ongoing consolidation efforts with South Orange. You are aware of my recommendations regarding these efforts so I won’t belabor the point, but I ask only that you give due consideration to the professionals as the process moves forward. 

Thank you to all of my family and friends who have come here tonight. Most importantly, a special thanks to my wife Nancy, who has stood by me through good and bad times with the department, offering encouragement and advice as I moved through the ranks. Thanks to my daughters, Kristin and Megan, for their love, encouragement and support. They are away at college so can’t be here tonight but I know they are watching. I’m not sure where the cameras are in the room, but “Hi, girls!” My father is in Florida and not here so, “Hi to you too, Dad.”

To the Officers and firefighters of the Maplewood Fire Department, both active and retired, thank you to all.  I have been blessed to have worked with the best of the best, and it has truly been an honor to serve with you. There are many challenges coming in the future, but I am confident that you all will meet those challenges and continue to serve with pride an honor, as it says on our patch. I am also confident that Chief Weber, the new Deputy Chief, Captain Whitting, Captain Giorgio, Captain Colatruglio and all the other officers and members of the fire department will continue to serve with honor and distinction at the highest level of professionalism the township has come to expect. 

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