13 police officers promoted, as well as township’s first black fire chief

IRVINGTON, NJ — Mayor Tony Vauss and Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers recently promoted 13 members of the Irvington Police Department, ranging from sergeant to deputy chief.

Capt. Stephen Yannotti, Det. Capt. Michael Tomich and Capt. Dwayne Mitchell were all promoted to deputy chief. The other promotions included: Lt. Stewart Townsend, Lt. Kenneth Price, Lt. Kim Williams, Lt. Harold Wallace and Lt. Lester Wilson to the rank of captain; Sgt. Eric Wilson and Sgt. Mark Green to lieutenant; and Officers Dawn Koontz, Kevin Hughes and Barry Zepeda to the rank of sergeant.

“I thank all of our men and women in our Department of Public Safety, including Director Tracy Bowers, for helping to make our town safe,” said Vauss on Monday, Aug. 8. Together we are meeting one of my objectives: to make Irvington a safe place to live, work and play.

This marks Mitchell’s second stint as a deputy chief in the department as he was previously promoted to that rank provisionally by former Mayor Wayne Smith and former police Director Joseph Santiago in 2013. That occurred while former police Chief Michael Chase was suspended with pay pending the outcome of his public departmental disciplinary hearing case regarding charges of abuse of power, among others.

No one in the Smith administration informed Mitchell that he was just provisional until the 2014 municipal election that swept Vauss into office and relegated the former deputy chief to the rank of captain. Although Mitchell was still technically the ranking senior officer in the department, which should have allowed him to continue running its day-to-day affairs, that didn’t happen.

Mitchell could not be reached for comment about his promotion.

Vauss, Bowers and fire Chief John Brown did comment on other recent promotions, including Capt. Antonio Gary of the Irvington Fire Department becoming the first black fire chief in township history.

“I am honored to have the opportunity as mayor of Irvington to swear in our first African-American fire chief in the history of the township,” said Vauss on Monday, Aug. 8. “Antonio Gary has served our town well in the ranks of firefighter to deputy chief for 20 years and now he assumes the top leadership role as our chief of the department, Department of Public Safety, Irvington Fire Division.”

The Irvington Fire Department is now the Fire Division of the township’s new Public Safety Department and Bowers said, as quiet as things have been, he counts himself among the many firsts in Irvington since Vauss became mayor in 2014.

“I’m a first too — the first public safety director,” said Bowers on Tuesday, Aug. 2, during the township’s annual National Night Out celebration in Civic Square. “At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships. In the 21st century, we have a lot of technology and we, as a Public Safety Department, Police and Fire, we embrace that. We love technology. But more importantly, we have other initiatives, like the bike patrol and the walking cop. There’s no technology that can replace a beat cop or a cop on a bike that the community can touch, talk to and interact with.”

Bowers said “Officer Friendly” can be found in Irvington, and the promotions on Wednesday, July 27, are proof of that.

Brown is the township’s first black fire director, and he is Bowers’ second in command, when it comes to Irvington’s new Public Safety Division hierarchy.

Brown admitted there has never been a “Fireman Friendly” that encouraged children of all races to trust, embrace and work with the fire department, but he said Bowers’ sentiments about “Officer Friendly” also apply to firefighters.

“That’s why we got the Public Safety Department, so that we could all come together and learn from each other and all be one and bring some positive stuff into the community,” said Brown on Tuesday, Aug. 2, at the National Night Out celebration in Civic Square. “That’s what the National Night Out is about — we all coming together; police, fire, Office of Emergency Management, everybody across the nation coming together and giving back to the community to build that relationship that Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers is talking about. So this way, the community knows the fireman is not bad; the policeman is not bad; we’re all here for you. We all have a job to do and we’re here to serve this community.”

Brown and Bowers said the Vauss administration has made their jobs working in Public Safety easy. Brown said the mayor’s commitment to making Irvington clean and safe is real and that’s why there have been so many firsts in town on his watch, including the latest first in the Fire Division.

“It feels great,” Brown said. “I was the first black fire director; the first fire chief and we also got the first fire officers union president and the first firefighters union president. So it’s history in the making all over this town. And Tracy is the first black public safety director. We’ve got firsts all across this town now. Everybody wants to be a part of things now. The mayor came, he put his vision in Clean and Safe, and everybody’s buying it. Everybody’s seeing it, because it wasn’t just something to sell it was his vision. And when you have a true vision, people follow.”

Gary said Brown was right and added he and everyone else in the department is on board with the mayor’s clean and safe agenda.

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act,” said Gary on Monday, Aug. 8.

Vauss said he is grateful for the support from the Irvington Fire and Police departments.

“I am also privileged to promote 13 policemen and women,” said Vauss on Monday, Aug. 8. “Their outstanding service and commitment to law and safety have earned them the opportunity to move forward in responsibility and rank.”


One Response to "13 police officers promoted, as well as township’s first black fire chief"

  1. Patrick Morrison, Captain, Retired, Ladder Co. 42   August 17, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    Congratulations to Chief Gary on your promotion. The local Fire House was always a friendly safe harbor while I was with the department. Glad to see it still is.
    Patrick Morrison, Captain, Retired, Ladder Co. 42