Jersey City promoted a veteran female firefighter to deputy fire chief on Tuesday, making her New Jersey’s highest-ranking woman in the fire service, according to Mayor Steve Fulop.
“Possibly (highest) in the tri-state area,” said municipal Fire Chief Steven J. McGill.
Battalion chief Constance Zappella was promoted. Zappella joined the JCFD in 2003 and was assigned to Engine Co. 9 at Duncan and Bergen Avenues until 2008.
She became a captain in 2011 while fighting citywide fires with Squad 4. In 2017, Zappella became battalion chief of the 2nd Battalion Co. in Greenville after working at Engine Co. 17 on Kearney Avenue.
In Jersey City, Zappella had strong female role models. She also honored her JCFD coworkers, including her “mentor,” Deputy Chief Anthony Dellarosa, who retired Tuesday aged 65 after nearly 41 years of service.
Zappella, a 1997 McNair Academic High School alumnus, stated no family members inspired her to join Jersey City’s Bravest. Her Jersey City Police Department uncle was the closest.
She decided to try it at 20 while a sophomore on a full academic scholarship at St. Peter’s University studying business.
She said she completed the application without telling anyone.
Zappella never regretted her decision. She claimed she couldn’t imagine a different job.
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She finished her SPU degree in economics and sociology with 57 credits in 2000, her junior year. Zappella worked for Merrill Lynch while the JCFD processed her job application.
That encounter solidified her resolve to join the uniformed ranks. She claimed finance was too cutthroat. I prefer teamwork.
She’s enjoyed being that for 20 years. She stated she worked hard to become a Level 2 fire instructor, fire inspector, and part-time Monmouth County Fire Academy employee.
Since her younger sister joined the JCFD two years ago, she has started a firefighting heritage, whether she planned to or not.
Zappella and three other experienced cops were promoted after passing a state Civil Service test. Shawn O’Connor, Loren Hart, and Joseph Altomonte are all new deputies.
Hart joined the agency in 2003, and O’Connor and Altomonte in 1997, according to departmental data. Altomonte became a captain in 2008 and battalion chief in 2017. O’Connor and Hart became captains in 2011 and battalion chiefs in 2017.
Altomonte, one of five brothers from the Heights, recalls how his mother, an Italian immigrant, feared for his safety when he applied for the JCFD, but he persisted. He is Matawan’s mayor and a qualified substitute Jersey City public school teacher.
“I’m up for re-election next year,” he remarked. He and his wife have four kids and five grandchildren.
O’Connor, a graduate of Hudson Catholic High School and New Jersey City University, has coached in Jersey City’s youth recreation program and worked at Our Lady of Victories Church.
Municipal and fire officials, firemen, and pleased relatives and friends swore in the new deputy chiefs Tuesday at City Hall.
They start Friday.
McGill said the four new D.C.s will replace retirees. “We’ll be where we need to be” in terms of top-level professionals who help him operate the department, McGill said.
The JCFD’s first female deputy chief and a new fire company that “rescues the rescuers” have made this an outstanding year, the chief added.
“We also hit the mark of 700 (departmental) members,” he stated, implying that Jersey City has outgrown the Newark Fire Department.