Maplewood Public Works Director Burbank to Retire

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Carolyn, Ryan, Eric and Beau Burbank at home on Boyden Avenue.

Carolyn, Ryan, Eric and Beau Burbank at home on Boyden Avenue.

Maplewood’s Director of Public Works Eric Burbank is retiring after 27 years with the department and more than five years at its helm. His last day on the job will be December 1.

Burbank is leaving to devote more time to the job of rehabilitating his son Ryan, 20, who was paralyzed from the chest down in a swimming pool accident in July 2012. Burbank’s son Justin will be graduating from National Guard boot camp on October 17; son Nicholas is currently studying business at Montclair State University.

“It has truly been a pleasure to work with Eric,” Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca told The Village Green. “He ran the department in a professional manner and is about getting results. He goes above and beyond on everything he does. He cares about Maplewood and its residents.”

“He also cares deeply about his family and is so proud of his sons,” DeLuca added. “His concern for Ryan’s future was a huge factor in his retiring. He’s proved again what a great dad and great guy he is. Lucky for us Eric will still be around town. I am proud to be his friend.”

DeLuca was not alone in his praise for Burbank. Police Chief Robert Cimino, who has worked with Burbank through his entire 27-year tenure at DPW said, “Eric is one of the most dedicated and skilled professionals I’ve ever known or worked with. From the first time I met Eric when he was newly hired and throughout his career here he’s always given 110 percent to Maplewood; in every project, every township emergency, every day. I could always rely on Eric to go above and beyond his duty and really help the entire township team and ultimately our residents. He has been a strong supporter of law enforcement and our police officers too. And as hardworking as he is, Eric has a great sense of humor. I’ve enjoyed working with him and value his friendship. While I will miss working with him I do wish Eric and his family all the best.”

On a recent afternoon in the Burbanks’ kitchen, it was obvious that Ryan’s health and recovery is a consuming concern for Burbank, his wife Carolyn — and Ryan. The two parents spoke like health care insurance professionals and occupational/physical therapy experts, recalling endless haggling calls with insurance reps and explaining Ryan’s equipment and regimen. Burbank explained how Ryan is on the ball with the proper use of his equipment, his regimen and his medication schedule.

“He tells me how to do it right,” said Burbank.

Carolyn returned to work part time last year in a special education resource room for K-5 in the Millburn School District. This September, she went full time, paving the way for Burbank’s retirement.

Carolyn explained that Ryan has most of the movement back in his arms. He has regained wrist movement, but not finger movement. Ryan has also made other improvements: He can move his left ankle and left toes and is starting to offer resistance with that one foot.

“He’s getting more sensation,” said Carolyn. “He can start to differentiate between soft and sharp.”

Burbank said that Ryan’s improvements show that the time is right to work toward further improvements such as strengthening his core and arms so that he can pull himself up and become more independent.

“We don’t want to look back in 10 years and say we blew that time,” said Burbank. “We’ve got to give it a shot.”

Carolyn notes that when they were visiting Florida this summer, a rehabilitation center called Project Walk had patients with worse injuries than Ryan sitting on a spin bike or in manual chairs.

After his retirement, Burbank will be looking to procure two more pieces of equipment for Ryan so that he can work out more often and do so at home: an FES (functional electrical stimulation) bike and a PowerFit 3000.

Once Ryan is stronger, the goal down the line is to get him a power assist wheelchair. “It’s a step toward a manual chair,” said Carolyn.

Another goal is ultimately to start a business with Ryan, who is able to operate smart phones and tablets deftly despite a lack of finger movement. Ryan will hold down the office work while his dad works in the field.

Two years ago the Maplewood community helped raise money for a wheelchair van and other equipment and household improvements through a fundraiser event called Ryan’s Hope. The community reached out in myriad other ways as well, said the Burbanks. A family friend hooked them up with the NBC show “George to the Rescue” and organized a renovation of the Burbank’s home utilizing local volunteers.

“People were calling to do our laundry,” said Carolyn. She also is eternally thankful to the lacrosse parents who brought food very day.

“We looked at moving to Florida,” said Burbank. The family took as trip this summer to check out rehabilitation facilities like Project Walk. “I can’t see leaving Maplewood. No way.”




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