Gary Merwede, who had been the town’s acting fire chief since October, was appointed fire chief Thursday, Dec. 20, by Mayor Curt B. Leng.
Leng made the announcement in the Memorial Town Hall Rotunda, as dozens of firefighters, police personnel and others applauded the news about a longtime resident and public servant.
Leng praised Merwede for being “respected, intelligent, calm and kind” as well as “always prepared.”
Leng also noted he has “enormous faith and extreme confidence” in Merwede because of his experience and temperament. Leng cited Merwede’s “fierce commitment to this community.”
Merwede, who has been with the Hamden Fire Department since 1994, was named deputy chief in 2014. When he was appointed acting chief, it was the result of the retirement of Chief David Berardesca. Leng said Berardesca helped oversee improvements and modernization in the department.
In his prepared remarks, Merwede thanked Leng for having confidence in him. “To have the opportunity to serve the community where I grew up and later raised my family, and to do so working in the profession that fulfills my passion is just incredible.”
Merwede noted he has lived in Hamden for more than 50 years, residing in many of its neighborhoods. “This community is where my roots are,” he added.
Merwede recalled his decades working with other firefighters, paramedics, fire officers, labor leaders and four different chiefs-of-department, all of them contributing to his skill-set.
He pledged to continue to supply the town’s firefighters with “the safest and best equipment possible.”
Merwede also told the crowd: “The Fire Department remains committed to the team atmosphere created when we all work together, especially under the pressure of large scale events, like last spring’s tornado and whatever mother nature has in store for us this winter.”
He also addressed the Legislative Council, “which will take up my appointment on their agenda in the near future.” He said “I have heard your message loud and clear: good communication. Responsible budgeting. Strong administration. As a stakeholder and taxpayer in Hamden, this message resonates with me. The Fire Department will maintain the public trust, our core values and our mission statement.”