The small Guttenberg Police Department has maintained the status quo for the last seven years, with one commanding officer in the rank of lieutenant, six sergeants, and 15 patrol officers.
"We have a fairly young department," Delle Donna said. "We never had to make a promotion within the ranks. We lost some police officers over the years, but we never promoted someone to sergeant."
When the town's top uniformed officer, Lt. Joseph Gryzbowski, decided to retire effective April, 2007, it left a vacancy for the lone lieutenant and commander of police patrol.
After an extensive interview process, where all six current Guttenberg police sergeants were carefully scrutinized, the council's police committee - consisting of Councilman Gerry Drascheff, Councilwoman Jennifer Credidio and Councilman Frank Criscione - recommended that long-time Sgt. Joel Magenheimer receive the promotion.
'I'm very proud of it'
The 57-year-old Magenheimer, a 20-year veteran of the Guttenberg police department, is a long-time resident of the town, having resided in Guttenberg for the last 32 years. He is the former owner of a popular delicatessen in town who decided to become a police officer later in life.
"It's been a much bigger difference than slicing bologna," Magenheimer laughed. "When I first joined the force, I never thought a day like this would happen. But I'm very proud of it."
Magenheimer was sworn into the acting lieutenant and police commander's role at the regularly scheduled Town Council meeting last Monday night. Gyrzbowski remains on the books until March and will receive his salary, vacation, and sick days prior to that date.
Magenheimer immediately assumes the position as the top uniformed officer.
Magenheimer, a married father of two daughters, said that he believed all six current sergeants had the qualifications to take over the police command. But he did have one characteristic that he felt carried him past the other prospective candidates.
"I still live in the town," Magenheimer said. "I think that was a little advantage."
In fact, it turned out to be the deciding factor, according to Della Donna and Drascheff.
"The committee interviewed all six candidates and we were looking for someone who lives in town," Delle Donna said. "The committee felt that Joel was the best fit and has the best interests at heart, because he lives here, he can be at any situation day and night right away. I think it's a good fit. I'm not saying he was the only candidate, but he was the best fit."
"Joel's biggest strength was that he lived in town," Drascheff said. "We thought it was very important, especially with a small town and a small department. We had about a three-hour interview. He has a feel for the areas in the department that we felt needed improvement. Joel will correct the areas that need correcting. Taking everything into account, he's the right fit."
Time for change
Drascheff said that the position had become too administrative rather than focusing on police work.
"The position has been for commander of the police patrol and over the years, it has become too administrative," Drascheff said. "The police patrol wasn't the priority. We have to get it back to that. It's something we need right now."
While Magenheimer was promoted to acting lieutenant, it left an opening among the department's sergeants. Officer James Damore received the promotion to sergeant at Monday's meeting as well.
There is now one opening for a general patrol officer and Delle Donna said that the town hopes to hire a female Hispanic officer in the near future.
Magenheimer is looking forward to the challenge of taking over the Guttenberg police department.
"The quality of life is always a concern," Magenheimer said. "Weekends on Bergenline Avenue seem to be an issue every weekend. That's why I plan to work weekends, work around the clock. It's a job that can't be done 8-to-4. I'll respond to the job and to what's going on."
Magenheimer said that he has received positive feedback since receiving word of his promotion.
"When there's a changing of the guard, there's always a little apprehension," Magenheimer said. "Things change altogether and perhaps some for the better. But I want them to know that they can come to me with anything. Everything seems to be fine."
And if the police work fails, people in Guttenberg know that their new police leader can make a mean sandwich.