Teaneck names first African American to fire chief post
By Joseph Ax, NorthJersey.com
“When you make a milestone like that, it’s after the sacrifices of many before you,” Verley said Wednesday. “I appreciate that there are many others that blazed a trail before me, and I hope that I will now help someone else progress in the future.”
Verley, who has served as interim chief since Robert Montgomery’s retirement this spring, has experienced a turbulent couple of years.
In 2009, he was demoted from deputy chief to captain when the town eliminated the rank of deputy chief as a cost-cutting measure.
Earlier this year, after a series of legal challenges from the town’s two fire unions and a ruling from the state that the captains were improperly asked to perform duties outside of their rank, Verley was reinstated as a deputy chief.
On April 1, he became interim chief, only to watch as the Township Council approved a plan this fall to eliminate the positions of police and fire chief in favor of a public safety director. That decision was reversed last month after the police union filed a lawsuit challenging its legality, and Verley was finally appointed chief on Tuesday.
“It’s been emotional,” Verley said, adding that the retirement of five veteran deputy chiefs last year — who opted to leave rather than face demotion — also drained the department of valuable experience.
Verley, a 23-year member of the department, has also been a member of the Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps for 27 years. The 48-year-old spent about a decade in Teaneck after moving to town as a teenager and now lives in River Vale with his wife, Donnett.
“It’s a source of great pride for me as an African-American, and it’s a source of great pride for the community,” said Township Manager William Broughton, who is the town’s first black manager. “It’s a very proud moment to see somebody that you’ve observed over 20 years to develop into the type of professional that he is.”
Twenty-four-year veteran Thomas Draney was also promoted from battalion chief to deputy chief to replace Verley and will serve alongside Joe Berchtold. Draney, a graduate of Teaneck High School, is a second-generation firefighter; his late father, John, was a fire lieutenant in the department.