Recently, Deputy Chief Michael Dingelstedt was chosen to be the Maplewood Fire Department's new Chief. He will replace Fire Chief Joseph Richardella, who will retire on Jan. 31.
A 31-year veteran of the Maplewood Fire Department, Dingelstedt recently was honored by the department for his service and for his role helping the families of injured or deceased firefighters to navigate the pension and benefit system.
Dingelstedt will be sworn in as Chief at the Maplewood Township Committee meeting on Feb. 5, along with Joseph Callaghan who is being promoted to Deputy Chief and William Heerwagen Jr. who is being promoted to Captain.
Patch recently interviewed Dingelstedt by email and phone. Here are his responses.
1) What changes do you plan to make to the department, or what new initiatives do you plan to launch?
The members of the Maplewood Fire Department have always worked to provide the best possible service to the community while constantly seeking ways to improve service delivery.
In order to continue with that practice, we will begin a complete assessment of all current policies and procedures for fire and EMS operations, fire prevention and training, with the goal of obtaining accreditation from an outside agency, similar to the accreditation process the Police Department completed early in 2012.
This will allow the Department to determine community risk and safety needs, evaluate the performance of the department and establish a method for achieving continuous organizational improvement. Obtaining accreditation will ensure that the Department has the best policies and practices in place to provide for the safety and well-being for the residents and merchants of Maplewood.
I also intend to work with the township neighborhood associations to increase Fire Department interaction and provide fire prevention/community risk reduction programs for those groups.
We will also be meeting with school district representatives to implement a program called “Fire Is . . .,” which is a fire prevention program specifically geared to middle-school students that also invites family participation.
2) I understand you grew up in Maplewood, can you tell me more about that?
I grew up on Tuscan Road, which is a main fire route, and always was out front with friends to watch fire engines go by on their way to the eastern side of town.
Growing up, I participated in many of the same programs that are still available today through the school district, library and recreation department. My wife also grew up in Maplewood and, although we didn’t meet until we were introduced by a co-worker early in my career on the Fire Department when she brought her kindergarten class to the firehouse on a tour.
My earliest exposure to the fire service was going to the firehouse with my uncle, who was a firefighter in Hartford, Connecticut, when visiting with his family. My mother worked for the town for twenty years; she died in 1990. She was a crossing guard, then the chief secretary for five police chiefs.
3) What does it mean to you to be selected for this position?
When I was appointed to the Maplewood Fire Department, I aspired to become the best firefighter I could be, with the hope of progressing through the ranks and attaining the rank of Fire Chief. Being appointed to this position is humbling, to say the least. I am grateful for the opportunity to lead the dedicated, hard-working professionals that are the firefighters of the Maplewood Fire Department as we work together to move the department into the future.
On behalf of all the members of the Maplewood Fire Department, I would like to thank retiring Chief Joseph Richardella, for his 31 years of dedicated service, with the last four years as Chief, to the Fire Department and Township of Maplewood, and wish him all the best in his retirement.