SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — On May 24, South Orange Village announced the retirement of long-time health officer John M. Festa, effective June 3.
“Congratulations to health officer John Festa on his retirement,” village President Sheena Collum said. “John has served our community as an exemplary public servant and led us through some of the most challenging times imaginable with professionalism, compassion and tireless dedication. For the last two and a half years John has worked seven days a week coordinating our pandemic response. On behalf of myself and my colleagues on the Board of Trustees, I offer our sincere thanks and admiration for all that he has done for South Orange during this public health crisis and his over 32 years of service to our community.”
“There is no doubt that we owe John a considerable debt for his leadership during the most significant public health emergency in generations, but his contributions prior to the pandemic also deserve mention,” said Trustee Donna Coallier, president of the South Orange Board of Health. “John has always gone above and beyond his required duties as health officer. He has organized and championed a variety of community programs, including the annual health fair, the ‘File of Life’ program and the annual turkey giveaway, demonstrating his commitment to the health and well-being of our community. His retirement is well-deserved and his presence on the local board of health will be greatly missed.”
Festa began his public health career in 1985 as a health educator in Irvington. In 1989 he began working part-time in South Orange as a health educator with a focus on lead-burdened children. He was hired as South Orange’s full-time health officer in 1992. Under his stewardship South Orange Village has always enjoyed satisfactory compliance evaluations from the N.J. Department of Health.
“In addition to John’s legendary work ethic, it must also be noted that John always managed the health office with a great deal of fiscal responsibility. He negotiated favorable contracts for outside services in the areas of animal control and food testing, and obtained professional licenses allowing him to do his own inspections in a variety of areas,” village administrator Adam Loehner said. “These efforts have helped minimize the overall departmental expenses while maintaining an exemplary level of service.”
In addition to his work in South Orange, Festa served in the Army National Guard from 1984 to 2005 and was honorably discharged with the rank of major.
“It has been a privilege to serve numerous governing bodies, generations of South Orange residents, Seton Hall University students and staff, a plethora of grammar and high school students, as well as a dedicated village employee staff,” Festa said. “During the last several years, the COVID-19 crisis has proven to be a challenge to the health department. I endeavored to persevere in managing that public health crisis, as well as the many daily responsibilities of the health officer, and more.”
Festa plans to enjoy retirement with his family — including his wife, Nancy, and son, Michael, who is a sergeant in the Marine Corp — while continuing his many volunteer activities, including his work serving veterans, holding off-station parties for veterans and supporting the work of Shriners Hospitals for Children network. He is also a member of the Freemasons, the National Sojourners, the Wharton American Legion Post 91 and the Essex Troop at the West Orange Armory.