Minichini marks milestone


The Belleville Police Department has a new leader.

Mark Minichini, a deputy chief since 2009, was elevated to the department’s highest rank when he was sworn in last Tuesday by the man he is replacing, Chief Joseph Rotonda, who retired July 1 after a 16-year stint in the top spot.

It was a day of change for other BPD members as well with Rotonda telling The Observer that John Hood, brother of retired Deputy Chief Charles Hood, had been promoted to captain; Frank Pignataro, to lieutenant; Anthony Patenzone, to sergeant; and John Rossi, named as police officer.

Although Mayor Raymond Kimble had said previously that state Civil Service required Minichini to take a promotional exam before he could permanently appointed, Kimble told The Observer last week that was no longer the case.

“He’s permanent now,” Kimble said.  “There won’t be any test.”

Kimble said that just two days prior to the ceremony, Civil Service reversed its prior ruling.

The announcement came in a letter to then-interim Township Manager Mauro Tucci, who was, coincidentally, also named permanent in his job by the township governing body Tuesday night. Tucci, who was hired as manager/CEO in January, was also rewarded with a $10,500 raise, elevating his salary to $150,000.

Serving as a master of ceremonies Tuesday, Rotonda noted that Minichini was the ninth chief of police in the township’s history which, he added, was “quite an honor.”

After a year with the Irvington PD, Minichini – whose dad Frank was a parking enforcement officer in Belleville – moved in 1986 to the Belleville PD where, Rotonda said, he “served in any branch of service, except traffic.”

Always “very community-minded,” as he moved up through the ranks (making detective in 1993, sergeant in 1999, lieutenant in charge of the juvenile bureau in 2000, detective captain in 2005 and deputy chief in 2009), Minichini “was instrumental in coordinating National Night Out” and “became my back-up, my wing man,” Rotonda said.

For Kimble, who retired as police chief in 1997, the occasion was “bittersweet, with one good friend moving on and another moving in.” He congratulated Rotonda for “having done a tremendous job. You earned the admiration of your peers.”

And he commended Minichini, a friend of nearly 30 years, for his hard work and good character. “You’ve always represented the Police Department very well. You’ve used discretion and treated all with compassion, dignity and respect.”

In a rare show of unanimity, members of the township governing body all had accolades for the new chief.

“You are Belleville,” said Councilman John Notari. “You are Belleville. You know this town as well as anyone. You’re the role model for your children.”

“It’s my greatest pleasure to name a chief from Silver Lake,” said Councilwoman Marie Strumolo Burke. “You’ve always been there to help people in need.”

Councilman Kevin Kennedy extended congratulations to Minichini’s dad Frank who was “the best ticket-writer” he’s known.

“The town is in great hands” now, said Councilman Joseph Longo. And “we’ll be there to support you,” vowed Councilman Vincent Cozzarelli.

After taking in the plaudits from the locals and from visiting dignitaries, it was Minichini’s turn to address the SRO council chambers. “I stand truly humbled,” he began, “and I accept this responsibility knowing the great burden that comes with it.”

He thanked his “many friends, a lot I’ve known since grammar school, including you, Mayor Kimble. I would not be standing here today if not for you. You took me under your wing and guided me through the department and I’m a better leader today because of it. I’ll be forever grateful having you as my mentor.” He pledged to “continue making Belleville better.”

After thanking Tucci “for appointing me” chief, Minichini turned to Rotonda and said, “I remember being a young detective while you were in charge of the juvenile bureau and you made me feel relied on.”

Then Minichini faced his parents, Rosemarie and Frank, and thanked them for “bringing me up with the morals I have today” and for their support “after the loss of my brothers Frankie and Anthony.”

Choking back tears, he said, “I’m proud to be called your son.”

He praised his four children, Kara, Alana, Frankie and Lisa, “for giving me the inspiration to succeed in life,” and, finally, his wife Tabatha. “Living life is easy with you in it,” he said.

Thanking the members of the BPD, many of whom filled the chambers, Minichini said: “You will have my support as you go out to carry out your mission as police officers of Belleville.” He added that he would be meeting soon with his command staff to discuss prospective changes.

The new chief pledged to “address quality of life issues, create a partnership with the community, open up dialogue between neighbors, encourage everyone to be decent to each other and together, we will make Belleville a safe place for all.”

A bit of levity was injected into the love fest when Rotonda quipped to his successor, “This [promotion] goes into effect Thursday so you can still bring me coffee.”

A little later, Minichini got to return the dig when Rotonda said that even in retirement, “I’ll still call you” to get together to chat, to which Minichini replied: “Yeah, and I’ll still pick you up.”

Embracing the moment, the crowd roared.


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