By Elaine Van Develde
The smile is the same. The stripes on the uniform are different.
On the heels of Fair Haven Police Chief Darryl Breckenridge’s announcement of retirement, longtime Fair Haven police officer Joseph McGovern was promoted from lieutenant to captain at Monday night’s Borough Council meeting.
The promotion is a significant one in light of the fact that while the police department’s staffing model hierarchy allows for a captain in the department the position has not been filled since retired Captain Paul McCue was on the force several years ago.
Caught readying himself to get to the meeting outside the police station, McGovern gave Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect his signature smile and a wave, for which he is known throughout town, as he gussied himself up, hopped in his SUV and headed a couple blocks over.
He was met with a packed meeting room full of beaming, congratulatory officials, neighboring police and chiefs, family and friends.
Welcoming all, Chief Breckenridge pointed out that “when you rise to the level of captain, it shows when you see the network of support from (police in) surrounding towns …” Among those in that support network were Rumson Police Chief Scott Paterson and Red Bank Police Chief Darren McConnell, both Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School graduates.
First thanking the officers of the department for their “continued dedication” and saying “you guys do an excellent job, and I couldn’t be more proud,” Breckenridge singled out McGovern’s family and told them, “you should be very proud of Joe. He worked very hard to get where he is going tonight … I’m sure Joe’s going to do a terrific job.”
McGovern’s journey to the captain’s position has been a long, hard-earned, diligent one, the chief said, starting nearly 30 years ago.
He recounted it. McGovern started in the department in 1987 as a dispatcher. In 1989, he became a special officer. 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. Now he’s a captain. He has also earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and attended the prestigious FBI Academy.
“Joe has worked very hard with his promotional process, doing the right thing and doing his job,” Breckenridge said. “I am so proud and happy to stand here before you and congratulate you first, captain.”
With a smile, his wife holding the bible and two boys by his side, Mayor Ben Lucarelli administered the oath of office to McGovern.
With a modest smile and a simple “thank you” to “everyone for coming out,” McGovern said, “It’s been a long process and it’s finally here.”
Five stripes. Same smile. Same dedication.
McGovern will serve as acting chief as of Oct. 1, the official start day of Breckenridge’s retirement. Sgt. Robert Townshend is slated for a promotion to lieutenant. The new chief has not yet been chosen.