Guttenberg’s Town Council meeting on Monday, Aug. 25 revolved largely around personnel issues, with the swearing-in of seven new public servants as well as heartfelt tributes to a few old friends who recently passed away.
Five police officers took the oath of office. Justin Bursztyn and Steve Pelaez were sworn in as SPOs (special police officers), while Steven Diaz, Patrick Giannini, and Frank Pelaez took the oath of allegiance as regular police officers.
“SPO is part time,” said Lt. Charles Hughes, explaining that policemen typically start in the department as part-timers and then wait for an opening to come on board as full time officers. “We’ve had SPOs that have been specials for two months, we’ve had SPOs that have been specials for two years. It just depends when the next spot opens.”
“Everyone that we promoted or appointed tonight as a police officer has had some experience in law enforcement and many of them have had experience right here in Guttenberg,” said Mayor Gerald Drasheff.
The two new SPOs came from the Passaic County Deputy Program. Diaz spent a year with Passaic and then two years as an SPO in Guttenberg before being sworn in as a regular police officer.
“Officer Velez comes to us with a history as a Class 2 Special in Union City,” said Drasheff, “and has a family member that works out of the prosecutor’s office, so there’s a law enforcement tradition there. And Patrick Giannini was formerly with the sheriff’s office in Hudson County. So we’re very lucky to be bringing on some very experienced people who I’m sure are going to serve the residents of Guttenberg well.”
“We’re very lucky to be bringing on some very experienced people who I’m sure are going to serve the residents of Guttenberg well.” –Gerald Drasheff
Two new violations officers were also appointed this month. Eva Ramirez and Ana Escobar were both sworn in at the meeting.
“You’ll see them out on the street doing their job, particularly making sure our parking ordinances are enforced,” said Drasheff. “It’s a tough thing in this town to park and they make sure only our residents get to do that.”
Memorials for lost friends
The meeting began with a moment of silence for three residents who recently died. “We lost three people this month who were employees of Guttenberg and dedicated to the service of the residents of Guttenberg,” said Drasheff.
Deborah Magenheimer was a former committeewoman and member of the Rent Control Board in Guttenberg, and the wife of former Police Chief Joel Magenheimer. John Prellberg was a former councilman and the owner of John’s Watch Repairing, a 53-year fixture in town. And John Broking was a Korean War veteran who served as Guttenberg’s police chief for 27 years before retiring in 1996.
“This has been a very tough month for Guttenberg,” said Drasheff. “These three people were very close to us.”
The meeting also included a presentation in honor of former Guttenberg resident Paul Friedman, who died on Aug. 3. A World War II veteran, he had served on a ship in both the Pacific theater and the North Atlantic.
“Because of his service in World War II on a destroyer, where he started as a navigator and eventually became a lieutenant commander, [Friedman] had the right to have a flag draped over his coffin at the time of his burial,” Drasheff said. “His wife Florence is with us tonight and she asked me if we would agree to accept the flag to display here in Guttenberg. It is our privilege to do that and we will display this flag over our veterans’ monument on Boulevard East.”
“I just want to say Paul loved his country, he loved serving in the Navy,” said Florence Friedman in presenting the flag to the town. “And he would be very proud to have the flag flying in Guttenberg.”
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.