Volunteer members of the Rockville Centre Fire Department voted on April 8 to elect a new Chief of Department, First Assistant Chief, Second Assistant Chief and Delegate to the Fourth Battalion Fire District in the annual department elections.
James Avondet, the newly elected Chief of Department, succeeded Eric Burel, who finished his sixth one-year term in the position on April 20. Avondet was unanimously endorsed for the position by his fellow members at Defender Hose Company No. 1, where he has volunteered since August 1977.
A lifelong RVC resident, Avondet previously served for Defender Hose Company No. 1 as Lieutenant and Captain. For the department, he held the roles of Second Assistant Chief in 2017 and First Assistant Chief since April 2019. He will now lead the all-volunteer department as its 85th Chief of Department in its 145th year.
“You want to continue the hard work of all the chiefs before you,” Avondet said. “But most important is the membership and morale.”
With the pandemic and the economic and social effects that came with it, volunteer work is harder to sustain. But Avondet says the department’s focus on being on the cutting-edge of training and offering grants to help volunteers pay for college at Nassau Community College will help keep RVC among the state’s elite.
Additionally, the return of in-person gatherings could help the department reintroduce themselves to the community and increase morale. “I can only see it getting better,” Avondet said. “I think more people are going to want to get more involved.”
In tandem with his volunteer work with the fire department, Avondet served in the New York City Police Department for 20 years and now serves the village as the Deputy Manager to the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management.
“I do that to keep us ahead of big storms,” Avondet said. For his part in the OEM, which is also a volunteer position, Avondet works to keep track of equipment that can be vital to keeping power running. He was proud that despite storms creating issues in the past, the village’s electric and water departments were able to keep the sewer pumps and the water tower pumps operating.
“That kind of stuff makes me fulfilled and makes me want to continue the work we do,” he said.
The position of First Assistant Chief will be held by Scott Mohr, as voted by his peers. Mohr is a 28-year active member of the department, having joined Reliance Hose Company #3 in March 1993. He also serves as a New York City firefighter in Queens. Reliance Hose volunteers also unanimously endorsed Mohr for the role.
Tony Rugolo, a volunteer since 1984, was elected to be the Second Assistant Chief. His Woodland Engine Company No. 4 unanimously endorsed him for the position. Rugolo was elected and served as financial secretary, 2nd Lieutenant, 1st Lieutenant and from 1994 to 1996, and 2016 to 2017 as Captain.
Forty-six-year volunteer and ex-Chief John Thorp was elected to serve as the Delegate to the Fourth Battalion Fire District. A former member of Eureka Hook Ladder and Bucket Company and current member of Woodland Engine, Thorp has embarked on his second term in this position. He also served as the delegate in 2018.
The four longtime volunteers will serve in their respective positions for the next year, until the next annual April election.