By Elaine Van Develde
“You can call him chief, but he won’t actually be chief until April 25 when he’s sworn in,” Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli said referring to Acting Police Chief/Captain Joseph McGovern and the borough’s official move at Monday’s Borough Council meeting to make him the next police chief.
While, technically, the mayor said, the governing body’s decision to make McGovern chief has been made official and public with a passed resolution at the meeting, the promotion will actually become effective on April 25 with a swearing-in ceremony.
McGovern was promoted to captain in August of 2015, shortly before Breckenridge’s final day. Once Breckenridge was officially retired, McGovern also became acting chief. Robert Townshend was promoted to lieutenant on Nov. 30, 2015, shortly after the chief’s retirement.
Both McGovern and Townshend were qualified to apply for the job of chief. “And both did an excellent job in the interview/application process for the job,” Lucarelli said.
Here’s how it goes in Fair Haven, which is what is referred to as a chief’s town, as opposed to a civil service-run police department:
By ordinance — which spells out a very specific police chief hiring process for Fair Haven — there was a posting saying that the borough was hiring a chief and all who are qualified are invited to enter applications, Lucarelli said.
In this case, the qualified individuals were McGovern and Townshend, or officers specifically already working within the borough’s police department with the rank of lieutenant and above, he added.
The application package both needed to complete consisted of a list of specific items, such as a resume, statement of vision for the town and more, Lucarelli said.
Then, two individuals outside of the borough, but having served in the field, were hired as consultants to help conduct the interviews and review the applications. Those two people were: Ed Kirschenbaum, former chief of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office’s Detective Squad and current public safety director in Neptune; and George Jackson, former police chief in Eatontown and current administrator in the township.
The two devised a list of questions which were asked in executive session. Though, neither Kirschenbaum nor Jackson rendered scores or opinions on the answers.
After that, each candidate was interviewed by Borough Administrator Theresa Casagrande, the appropriate authority, Lucarelli added. A review of personnel files was then conducted by each council person. Each personnel package was scored, according to weighted categories.
The scores were tabulated and certified by the chief financial officer (CFO) and then presented. “Joe brought in the top score,” the mayor said. “So, we passed the resolution and set the swearing-in date.
“And, yes, because the resolution has been passed and the swearing-in date has been set, you can call him chief,” Lucarelli said. “Yes, it’s now a known fact, but it, according to the resolution, doesn’t actually become effective until the April 25 ceremony.
“We are going to open the meeting, swear Joe in as chief, have a short meeting and join him to celebrate,” the mayor said.
McGovern’s journey to the chief’s position started nearly 30 years ago.
Marking his beginning in the department in 1987 as a dispatcher, McGovern became became a special officer in 1989. In 1991, he became a probationary patrolman, then detective and OEM coordinator, which he still is.
In 2006, McGovern became a sergeant. And in 2008, he rose to the rank of lieutenant and then to captain a few months ago and now chief. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and attended the prestigious FBI Academy.
Congratulations to Joe McGovern!