In a surprise notification earlier this week, Chief Gary Merwede announced that he will be retiring from the department at noon on Friday, July 29th, after nearly 28 years of service, the last four of which as Chief.
Chief Merwede led the department through some of its most tumultuous challenges, including the entire COVID pandemic, a tornado that plowed a large swath through northern Hamden, several general alarm fires, and a rash of department retirements believed to be related to uncertainties surrounding the pension plan.
As a firefighter and company officer, Merwede served in every elective position in Local 2687, the Hamden Fire Department's affiliate of the IAFF, including many years as its president, which gave him the unique ability to work more effectively with his labor counterparts. His term as Chief might be best characterized as the building of solid and effective department leadership through teamwork at all levels.
Along with the efforts of his predecessor, Chief David Berardesca, the department under Merwede's leadership in 2019 achieved an ISO rating of 2, its best ever. Only recently, Merwede was able to acquire $8.6 million in state funding for a much needed and long overdue new fire headquarters to be located in southern Hamden.
In a very thoughtful message to his department colleagues, Chief Merwede expressed his gratitude, "if I measured up to the challenge in the minds of some it is only because I have had the benefit of working for and with the best and the brightest in the professional fire service."
The members of the HFRA thank Chief Gary Merwede for the outstanding leadership he provided as Chief and wish him a long, happy, and healthy retirement.
Page 1 - New Haven Register, Thursday, July 14, 2022
After 28 years with the Hamden Fire Department, I have decided to retire from public service on July 29th, 2022 at noon. I have been blessed to work for a department that protects the town where I grew up and raised my family, a department with an excellent reputation and hard working dedicated firefighters and fire officers. It is every leaders’ hope that their tenure will be well regarded by history. I can say that if I have measured up to the challenge in the minds of some it is only because I have had the benefit of working for and with the best and the brightest in the professional fire service.
During my career I have worked with several town administrations while performing the duties of my position at the time. Thank you to Mayor Jackson for my appointment as Assistant Chief, to Mayor Leng for my appointment as Fire Chief, and Mayor Garrett for fully supporting the Fire Department budget for Fiscal ’23 and appointing Jeff Naples as our Assistant Fire Chief.
I also would like to thank each Department Head for the cooperation and collegial atmosphere that I have been a part of during my time as Fire Chief. Hamden has talented and dedicated people working in the public’s interest and I appreciate their hard work and willingness to partner with the Fire Department in the delivery of our mission.
Administration in the public sector requires constant interaction with the representatives of labor. In my case it has been a relationship with the Hamden Professional Firefighters, IAFF Local 2687 and their leadership. Arriving at solutions for complex problems requires good communication, common goals, and trust. I am proud of what we have accomplished together over the years and appreciate Local 2687’s dedication to safety, service, and getting it right.
Every ending is the opportunity for a new beginning. Succession planning has always been a part of the Fire Department, because everyone is replaceable and the mission must go on. All future communications that you would normally send to me, please start directing to Asst. Chief Jeff Naples. On average the Fire Department responds to 31 emergencies every day and our high level of service will continue.
Thank you for your kind consideration. It has been a privilege to work with each of you.