New chief and new president take office in November
By Michael Turton
The Garrison Volunteer Fire Company announced its election of officers on Oct. 19, and the results include both a new fire chief and a new president. Fire company leadership is divided into two sections — firematic officers who oversee firefighting and other emergency calls and civil officers who handle the company’s administration and management. On the firematic side, Bill Rimm was elected chief; Bob Langley, assistant chief; Joe Fronio, captain; Dan Sussman, 1st lieutenant and Jamie Copeland, 2nd lieutenant.
Copeland is currently GVFC president and is stepping down due to term limits. Civil officers elected include Betsy Calhoun, president; Chris Marrison, secretary; Brad Miller, treasurer; and new board member Dennis Rotenberg.
Current members of the Board of Directors who did not face reelection include Dean Anderson, John Giardiello, Peter von Bergen and Michael Del Monte. The newly elected officers will be formally commissioned at a dinner on Nov. 17.
The new chief
Firefighting is in 33-year-old Bill Rimm’s blood. “I grew up around firefighting. My father was chief with the Continental Village Fire Department,” Rimm said. “I rode with my dad a lot. That’s what got me into it.” Rimm was a member of GVFC several years ago before joining the Continental Village Fire Department, where he worked his way through the ranks and followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming chief there.
He returned to GVFC five years ago. As chief, Rimm’s role is to command firefighters and members at fires and other emergency scenes. Between calls his task is to oversee maintenance and support of the fire hall and its equipment.
Rimm sees communications with the other fire companies as one of his top priorities. “We have a communications issue and I want to attempt to repair that as soon as possible — both on and off the fire ground,” he said. For example, Rimm said that local fire departments currently use different radio frequencies — a practice he would like to see addressed. “And we (the four Philipstown fire departments) can communicate better about what each is doing. It would make for more efficient emergency calls,” he said.
He also sees a need for better communications with the community, especially those who are new to the area. “People are under the false impression that there are a lot of requirements in order to join the fire company. That’s not the case,” he said. “We don’t do just firefighting. Everyone doesn’t have to train to run into a burning building. We need people to help with traffic … and help with things like paper work.”
When he isn’t on duty as fire chief, Rimm works for a heating and air conditioning service company in lower Westchester County.
The new president
Betsy Calhoun, 75, has been part of the GVFC for “about 13 years,” having served as a firefighter and on several committees. She is very clear about what one of her top priorities will be as incoming president: “Definitely to build and train the membership. That’s the key to any fire company, I think,” she said. “We have a great building, excellent equipment, and we have good people, but we need more.” Calhoun said she would also like to tap more of GVFC’s long-standing, experienced members to assist with training. “And I’d like to search out new, younger members.”
Calhoun thinks Garrison has evolved in recent years. “The community has changed a lot in the last 20 to 30 years,” she said. “People who live here part-time, people who can afford to pay more in taxes, seem to prefer to pay rather than to serve.”
She is very aware that local fire companies have been caught up in some less-than-positive publicity in recent years. “Obviously there’s a need for more communication, more availability,” she said. “We should be very available. I think we need to go out into the community more, and bring the community in more.”
Calhoun said that in the past, when the GVFC was supported solely by donations, “There was a much closer rapport and direct community support. But I don’t think it should be difficult (dealing) with the town board. We’re basically on the same path.”
Calhoun knows she has hard work ahead of her, but she also knows she volunteered to serve. She made it known at the fire hall that she felt she could do the job. “Some people reached out — that was very encouraging,” she said.
As in Rimm’s case, serving in a fire company is rooted in Calhoun’s family history. “My father was in the fire company, and it meant a lot to him. I feel that tradition,” she said. “And my granddaughter loves to sit in the fire trucks!”
Calhoun is an adjunct professor at the New York City College of Technology where she teaches architecture and site planning. She is also an artist and has recently begun a new series of sculptures. At home she is working towards a “sustainable living situation” that includes using solar modules as an off-grid source of electricity.