Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Frank R. Tidwell is New Fire Chief

New Fire Chief Frank R. Tidwell signs papers making his title official as Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs looks on.

Well-wishers including fire chiefs from across Central Jersey crowded City Hall Library Monday to witness Frank R. Tidwell’s swearing-in as the city’s 29th fire chief and the second African-American to achieve the title.

Tidwell, his sons and several colleagues credited his faith and constant studying for his success, but he said it was a .38 caliber bullet that set him on his path. Tidwell recounted being shot in his native Chicago and learning of new opportunities in the Garden State. “God said, ‘I want you to go to New Jersey,’” he told the crowd. “My beginnings began with God. To God be the glory for this destination tonight.”

From being a rookie in 1980, he moved up the ranks to lieutenant from 1989 to 1996, then served as a captain until 2002 when be became a battalion chief. In 2009, he was named a deputy chief and when Fire Chief Cecil Allen went out on final leave in December 2010, Tidwell became acting chief.

After Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs administered Tidwell’s oath of office, a stream of speakers came forward to praise him.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that you have the right man for the job,” East Orange Acting Fire Chief Charles Salley said.

Newark Fire Director Fateen Ziyad noted Tidwell’s “faith, spirit, humbleness and belief,” while Trenton Division Fire Chief Leonard Carmichael Jr. alluded to Tidwell’s constant studies and training by saying, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

Firefighter Geoffrey Plummer, president of the Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, said, “I’m sure Chief Tidwell will be one of our great chiefs.”

Sons Terron, Timothy, Franklin and Thomas cited the example their father set for them, and his “significant other,” Stacie, presented him with a plaque for the occasion. Allen pinned on Tidwell’s chief’s badge as he had requested and called him “a good person” and “an upright man.”

Tidwell told Plaintalker he will be sharing his plans for the Fire Division with the City Council in coming weeks.

As acting chief in May, he told the Planning Board that the Fire Division’s capital needs include new pumpers, a fire command vehicle and a heavy duty rescue truck to replace outdated equipment. Also needed are parking lot repairs, security cameras, plumbing upgrades, hose replacement, computers and a public address system to serve all three fire stations.

Somewhere down the road, Tidwell told the board, he hopes for a new fire station that will be "more green, more hybrid, more computer-friendly."


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