Council honors retirees
HAMMONTON—Several retirees were honored at the regular meeting of town council, held on December 20 in town hall.
The first was outgoing Councilman Joseph Giralo, who will be sworn in as Atlantic County Clerk on January 1, 2022.
Councilman Thomas Gribbin spoke a few words about his colleague.
“Some people may think that, because Joe is a member of the Hammonton Regular Republican Club and I’m a member of Hammonton First, and because we’ve run against each other three times, that, somehow, we might be adversaries—but I don’t think anything could be further from the truth. We’re neighbors, we’re friends and we’re Hammontonians,” Gribbin said.
Gribbin said that Giralo is “someone that I can rely on and call on to lend a helping hand.”
“Joe has always put the interests of Hammonton at the forefront of his decisions, and I know that he will continue to be a voice for Hammonton at the county level. Hammonton always supports Hammonton,” Gribbin said.
Gribbin then presented Giralo a plaque for his six years of service on council, which also noted his 18 years as a member of the planning board.
“He was a passionate advocate for fiscal responsibility and the preservation of Hammonton’s proud traditions. We know that Councilman Giralo will retain his passion for moving our town forward, and we wish him the best in his new role as Atlantic County Clerk,” the plaque read.
Giralo thanked everyone for the plaque, as well as the people of Hammonton for their continued support.
“I will still be just as active—not here — in another role. Hammonton is important and it will continue to be important in my life, every day,” Giralo said.
Councilman Jonathan Oliva spoke about the next individual, Andrea Effinger, the Department Head of the Construction Department, who is retiring after 36 years with the town.
“It’s no doubt that her spirit, knowledge and guidance are not things that will easily be replaced. She has been instrumental in the town’s ability to be business-friendly with the application of permits and helping to continue to move our town forward,” Oliva said.
Oliva read from a plaque that he presented to Effinger.
“From the thousands of days worked and hundreds of problems solved to the everlasting friendships and unforgettable memories, you have been an instrumental source of leadership and success for which we are forever grateful. As you retire, know that we will miss you, and that your shoes will not be filled easily,” the plaque read.
Effinger expressed her gratitude.
“This is a very beautiful plaque, and I appreciate everything. Over the years, it’s been a privilege to serve the town, and it’s so true—I’ve made so many friendships here, and I’ve met some great people. Some people are no longer with us, unfortunately, but I have a lot of great memories—and I thank you all,” Effinger said.
Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel then took to the podium and said that the department will have two retirements effective as of December 31.
“It’s like having a member of the family leave. In the police department, we are a small group compared to a lot of other municipalities, and we are all like brothers and sisters,” Friel said.
The first individual Friel called up was Lt. Edward Slimm, who he described as “a driving force in our department.”
“He’s a little bit quiet—but always intelligent, always witty and artistic, that is for sure. It always brought a smile to our faces with some of the little doodles that we would find around the police department,” Friel said.
Friel then presented Slimm a plaque in recognition of his 27 years of service.
“This is presented to you on behalf of the entire police department, and we wish you well in everything that you do. Sad to see you leave, but glad you get to enjoy and spend time with your family. I can’t thank you enough for all that you’ve done in the police department,” Friel said.
Slimm thanked the current mayor and council, as well as those who were in those positions when he was hired, and agreed with Friel’s assessment that he is “a man of few words.”
“I’m sorry to say goodbye to all my brothers and sisters in blue, my records girls, my dispatchers, my old chief—I even see Louie Pinto here, who I used to work for. I have a lot of great memories in Hammonton. It was a pleasure serving the community, and I wish everybody the best of luck,” Slimm said.
Friel then introduced Cpl. Richard Jones, whom he described as a “great patrol officer and an even better SRO.”
“He would up the school resource officer at the high school, and he made bonds with people in our community that, today, adults still come back and go, ‘Officer Jones!’ It’s an integral part of raising our community. They say it takes a village? It does, and having a police officer in our school system to help for young people of our community to relate and feel comfortable with law enforcement in a day and age where people have a distrust for law enforcement—and some people even have a disdain for law enforcement—he was the epitome of what a school resource officer is all about,” Friel said.
Friel presented Jones with a plaque in recognition of his 22 years of service.
“Thank you so much for everything you have done. We are going to miss you,” Friel said.
Jones voiced his appreciation.
“I’d like to thank town council for having us tonight, my family, my brothers in blue, my biker brothers—and Chief Ingemi for hiring me. I really had a great time, and I thank everybody again,” Jones said.
Mayor Stephen DiDonato said that the town was “losing two good ones.”
“Two quiet men, but two hard-working, tremendous cops. I thank you for your service to the community. Lt. Slimm, you did a tremendous job; you’re a quiet guy, but you are a force. Richie—Cpl. Jones—you’re the same way; a tremendous mold some of our younger officers, men and women, ought to look to that leadership and realize the quality that’s there,” DiDonato said.
DiDonato also addressed Effinger.
“Andrea, you’ve always served the community tremendously. You’re always there, answering the phones, and we have some big shoes to fill—and we know that,” DiDonato said.
DiDonato then directed his comments toward Giralo.
“I know you’re not going away, but we’re going to miss you, also. You did a great job; you served the community well—from the planning board to the school board to now the seat at council—and I know you’ll serve Hammonton very well in your next stop in the chain,” DiDonato said.
Later in the meeting, Friel addressed council regarding filling the positions vacated by the retirements.
“I was looking to mayor and council to seek approval for hiring two new officers—and when I say ‘new,’ they’re not brand-new. Each one comes to us with over seven years’ experience in law enforcement already,” Friel said.
Friel said that such hires will help the department to perform its duties effectively.
“Instead of hiring a new person, sending them to the academy and having a green officer, which we would field-train, these are officers that we will have a short field-training, just for policy and procedure in our town, and they’ll be out there protecting our community immediately,” Friel said, adding that the two candidates recently met with the Law and Order Committee.
Friel detailed the law enforcement experience of the first candidate, Hardik Patel.
“He worked as a Class II in Atlantic City Police Department for approximately three years, worked in Camden City Metro for two years and currently works in Mullica Twp. Police Department from 2018 to the present day,” Friel said.
Friel said that Patel is a very effective officer who “does very well in his agency.”
“He speaks three languages, which is another wonderful thing to help bolster our diversity in our community; we’re trying to do that with our police department as well,” Friel said.
The second officer Friel proposed was Justin Mortelliti.
“He worked in Avalon as a Class II Officer for a period of a year, then was hired by Lumberton Police Department in Burlington County. He worked in Lumberton for five years, and then went to Evesham Police Department; he’s worked in Evesham for about two years now,” Friel said.
Friel said that Mortelliti is a certified Resiliency Program Officer.
“We’re losing Lt. Slimm as our resiliency officer; it would be great to have a resiliency officer step right in. He is a certified SRO. He has also been a detective, and has received training as being a detective. He’s Hammonton born-and-bred, so he’s very well versed in our streets and our community, so that would be an easy shoe-in for him to go through his field training,” Friel said.
Friel said that, pending council’s approval, the officers’ hires would be effective January 10, 2022, to allow them time to provide ample notice to their current employers.
“This will help to keep our number of officers at a good number to keep our community safe, and will also then facilitate the promotions that we need to facilitate after the new year,” Friel said.
Councilman William Olivo said that he and Councilman Sam Rodio were present for the interviews, and said that the candidates were “outstanding.”
“I think they’ll do our community justice,” Olivo said.
Olivo made a motion to hire the candidates, effective January 10, 2022; Rodio seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously.
Friel also requested the hiring of a Class II Officer.
“Now that our court systems can be possibly opening up soon for more than just the DWI trials that we have been having, I would like to be pre-emptive in making sure that we have a Class II Officer trained and prepared and ready for courtroom security—and also to help bolster the shift and be around the school areas,” Friel said.
Friel said that he had several candidates, and that the Class II position is ad-hoc, meaning that it is renewable each year.
“I would hope that mayor and council would see that we could facilitate doing that; a timeframe as to what you would decide, I don’t have a problem hiring them even before the first of the year, whatever—or if you want to wait until the 10th, we could do that as well,” Friel said.
DiDonato asked for clarification.
“So, you’re going to bring the names to us?” he said.
Friel answered in the affirmative.
“We could do that. Or, again, in between, if we find someone that would be suitable and the need happened before the next council meeting,” Friel said.
“We have the meeting on the third, also; the reorg meeting, we could do it,” he said.
After the meeting, Friel told The Gazette that, once the two new officers and the Class II Officer are hired, the police department will have 34 full-time officers.
“That takes into account the attrition that we have through some retirees and a person who is retiring disabled. The Class II would count as an accessory officer, but not a full-time officer ... We may, at some point, have to bolster our staff a little bit higher in order to facilitate taking more time on calls in order to de-escalate situations to not have to use force,” Friel said.
Hammonton Town Council will hold their annual reorganization meeting at 5 p.m. on January 3, 2022 by way of video conference. The next regular meeting of town council will be held in town hall on January 24, 2022 by way of video conference.