Chief-elect Joe Lauterwasser, right arrives at the First Aid building Tuesday night with his prospective first deputy, Chris Soden, left, and second deputy Pete DeFazio, center. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
If there’s one constant that defines the Red Bank Volunteer Fire Department, it’s family.
That was evident on Tuesday night, when the 143-year-old department’s annual election night celebration was dominated by names and faces that would have been familiar to attendees generations ago.
“We’re based on tradition,” said ex-chief George Lauterwasser (2002) as he awaited the arrival of the chief-elect, his 30-year-old son, Joe, at the First Aid building on Spring Street with dozens of other volunteers. “We keep it up with the kids. We’re old school.”
The younger Lauterwasser, a police dispatcher in Little Silver, had just been officially tabbed chief for 2015, succeeding Tommy Welsh, himself the son of a former chief.
Lauterwasser will take the office of office at the borough government reorganization meeting, scheduled for January 3. He’ll be joined by Chris Soden, as first deputy, and Pete DeFazio, as second deputy.
Soden is the son of an ex-chief, Alan Sr., and brother a two-time chief, Alan Jr.
If there’s another thread, it’s going back for more. When he takes command in 2017, DeFazio, a 64-year-old retired police captain, will be helming the fire department for the third time.
Why do it again?
“I’m a fireman,” said DeFazio. “I’ve always been a fireman. I guess it’s in my blood.”
Welsh has now served twice: the first time in 1996. A borough fire marshal, he said he’s glad he did it, because he got to interact with young firefighters who will one day follow in his footsteps.
“There’s just a tremendous amount of talent in this department,” he said.
Lauterwasser tells redbankgreen his top priority will be ensuring the department’s 135 volunteers continue to get proper training.
Lauterwasser is a product of a fire cadet program started by his father and still run through Boy Scout Troop 166. The program has graduated boys who’ve gone on to be chiefs in several area towns, said the elder Lauterwasser, and now has six or seven boys and girls enrolled – “and most or all have someone in their family in the fire department,” he said.