It was a hail and farewell day for certain Kearny public safety employees last Tuesday.
The municipal police and fire departments celebrated promotions in their ranks while paying tribute to veterans departing the ranks via retirement.
Effective Feb. 4, Police Sgt. Anthony Limite is elevated to lieutenant at $133,971 a year and Officers Christopher Levchak and Peter Blair go to sergeant, each at $116,700 annually.
Also as of Feb. 4, Firefighters Lorenzo Tirado and Victor Girdwood become captains, each at an annual pay of $105,137.
And Juan Barroso Jr. was made permanent in the position of fire official/chief inspector, retroactive to Jan. 25, at his same salary. He had been serving provisionally in the title.
Congratulating both the Finest and Bravest on achieving their new ranks, Police Chief John Dowie – referring to the packed council chambers – quipped: “There are more people here tonight than at the [presidential] inaugural.”
Turning serious, Dowie said Kearny had “the good fortune to acquire [the newly-promoted cops] from other police departments. They are all fine examples of what the chief and the public expects from a police department – officers who are fair, friendly and brave.”
Levchak, son of a retired Kearny police superior and of a nurse and brother of a Kearny firefighter, has been with the KPD since March 2009, having worked in patrol and as a traffic accident investigator.
A supporter of New Jersey Special Olympics, an Eagle scout, flag football devotee and avid Giants fan, Levchak is perhaps “best known for his culinary expertise,” Dowie said. “Since his arrival, the PBA picnic is nothing like it used to be.”
Blair, who transferred to Kearny from the Harrison PD in 1995, was already well-known to Kearny gridiron fans as “an outstanding tight end” when he played for the Kearny High Kardinals, the chief noted.
Lauding Blair’s work as an accident and fraud investigator, Dowie recalled how the officer tracked down an errant driver who crashed after making an illegal U-turn on the Pulaski Skyway, abandoning his girlfriend, who was a passenger in the vehicle.
Dowie also listed Blair’s service as a PBA vice president as an example of giving back to his colleagues but also cited the officer for his sense of fair-mindedness when a motorist tried to pass off a PBA card as a way to avoid consequences, only to see Blair “toss that card to the wind.”
Limite, who began his law enforcement career with the Rutgers University PD in Newark, was later “on loan” to the DEA (federal Drug Enforcement Agency), Dowie said, and “brought in a lot of money [in drug forfeiture assets].”
Promoted to sergeant in 2008, Limite supervised the KPD planning and training unit which, Dowie said, “he revamped for new hires.”
A 2nd Marine Division veteran, Limite has served the KPD as a firearms instructor, has trained as hostage negotiator and is a member of the KPD Honor Guard. He has also worked as part of a United Nations security detail.
Saluting the new captains and outgoing members of the department, Fire Chief Steven Dyl noted the department “has been on a long road to rebuilding and we’re almost there,” referring to the newest group of recruits due to complete academy training soon.
Dyl commended Tirado, originally from Newark, for having served his country in combat in Iraq as a member of the National Guard, from September 2005 to June 2007, before joining the KFD in September 2008.
Tirado “excelled” as a member of the department’s Swift Water Rescue team who demonstrated mastery of the then-new KFD fireboat, Dyl said. Tirado earned a citation for his rescue work performed during Superstorm Sandy.
During his time as acting captain, while awaiting permanent appointment, “he responded well” in all situations he faced, Dyl added.
Girdwood, a 1983 Kearny High alum, began working with the New York City Carpenter’s Union before shifting to firefighting. His son, Victor Jr., is a Kearny police officer and his dad, Henry, is a Kearny DPW retiree.
Girdwood came to the KFD in 1999 and has established a reputation as a firefighter with a big heart, having volunteered to coach a New Jersey. Devils’ hockey sled team for the disabled, using his skating ability also as a member of the N.J. FMBA hockey squad.
With the KFD, Girdwood was acclaimed as Firefighter of the Year in 2010 for his work in dealing with a burning runaway truck on the N.J. Turnpike, was cited for rescue work during Super Storm Sandy and was credited with pulling a Jersey City firefighter from a collapsing floor to safety during a mutual-aid response to a Jersey City structure fire.
Dyl characterized Tirado and Girdwood as “great examples for our new recruits.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Alberto Santos and the Town Council thanked the retirees for their service to Kearny.
KPD retirees, effective Feb. 1, are: Capt. Edward Rygiel, 35 years; Lt. Anthony M. Gouveia, 29½ years; Sgt. Michael J. O’Neill, 29½ years; and Lt. Peter Caltabellotta, 26 years and two months. Rygiel collects $91,869 in terminal leave pay and unused vacation; Gouveia, $81,026; O’Neill, $72,022; and Caltabellotta, $72,265.
KFD retirees, as of Feb. 1, are: Capt. Gerard Nardone, 28 years and eight months; and Firefighter Andrew Taylor, 26 years and eight months. Nardone gets $54,552 in terminal leave pay and unused vacation; and Taylor, $36,722.