YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Surrounded by his family and a packed room of well-wishers, Thomas Rowe was sworn in last night as Leonia’s next police chief, ending nearly six months of what some residents described as “limbo” over the administration of law enforcement of their borough.
“Are you ready?” Mayor John DeSimone asked.
“Yes,” Rowe answered firmly.
“Are you sure?” the mayor asked, bringing a chuckle from the crowd, many of them fellow chiefs and officers from surrounding towns.
“Positive,” Rowe answered. “This time.”
The exchange recalled when Rowe served as chief for a few short weeks before telling the Mayor and Council that family obligations kept him from taking the job at the time.
“I’m looking forward to serving the residents of Leonia. It is a town full of good people,” the new chief told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
Rowe thanked many for their support — first and foremost his wife, Natalie.
“We met in Belmar 21 years ago, and at the time I had a plan to get married when I was 35,” he said.
To which Natalie Rowe responded: “And I had a plan never to marry a cop.”
They were married two years later, her husband said, and “she’s the chief of everything in our house.”
“I couldn’t do it without her,” he added.
Rowe also had special words for his parents.
“Thank you, mom and dad,” he told them. “I’m here because of you.”
Rowe also recognized some fellow Bergen Catholic classmates in the crowd, including Englewood Detective Capt. Tim Torrell and Fort Lee Deputy Chief Tim Ford. Other law enforcement officers from area towns who attended included Englewood Cliffs Police Chief Michael Cioffi.
“If you didn’t support me I wouldn’t be here, and I know that,” Rowe told them.
He also thanked current and former members of the Mayor and Council, some of whom were also in attendance last night.
“You took a chance and appointed me 23 years ago, and I thank you,” the new chief said.
He nodded, as well, to Leonia Municipal Court Judge John DeSheplo, Municipal Prosecutor Mark Fierro, and Public Defender Robert Metzdorf, saying, “We have a great court in town.”
“I hope I didn’t leave anyone out,” Rowe concluded.
As a lieutenant, Rowe was named officer in charge after former chief Jay Ziegler left the department in March, ending a 26-year career.
Ziegler retired the day after borough officials agreed to settle a civil rights suit he had filed against them, CLIFFVIEW PILOT exclusively reported in March.
The Leonia Mayor and Council agreed to the settlement after a personnel discussion the night of Monday, March 18, records show.
The next day, Ziegler was gone ( SEE: Leonia chief’s retirement tied to suit against borough officials ).
For a time, there was speculation that Leonia officials were considering going with a civilian police director.
But that notion came to a swift end.