Mayor Joseph Solomon is equipped to withstand the heat following the promotional ceremony of 63 firefighters, including Chief Peter McMichael, Wednesday night before a crowd of more than 400 people at the Crowne Plaza.
The celebration recognizing promotions made over the past two years was funded by the firefighters. Nonetheless, it generated some controversy. WPRO radio talk show host Dan Yorke questioned why the event wasn’t held at a public venue and why several councilmen who had not voted to approve the firefighters’ contract had not been invited to attend.
But that was hardly heat.
Nonetheless, the union was prepared to see the mayor was outfitted for the hottest of conditions as they presented him with a helmet and heavy-duty firefighting jacket. He was ready to join them on the front lines.
“We have a mayor that has also taken a hands-on approach, and we thank him for that. He’s stood with us on many occasions – sometimes tragic – in the worst of weather and outcomes. And he has done it because he cares about this city and this fire department,” union president Michael Correiro said in calling Solomon to come forward for the presentation.
That tone of cooperation and collaboration underscored an evening where the spotlight was focused on the department and those promoted. As master of ceremonies, Firefighter Michael Boynton Jr. read out the names of those promoted in groups, they stood at attention in the front of the audience to be pinned by a member of their family. McMichael and the mayor personally congratulated each of them exchanging a salute and handshake.
Kicking off the promotional ceremony, Solomon administered the oath of office to McMichael followed by the oath collectively to the firefighters.
“The excellence of this department is because of the dedication of our current members and because of those who came before us,” McMichael said. He noted that the Warwick department is the only one in the state to receive federal funds to operate a Regional Technical Rescue Team, Hazardous Materials Response Team, Flammable Liquids Task Force and Dive Team as well as being a part of the Narragansett Bay Marine Task Force. He said these added responsibilities are a reflection of the “dedication and professionalism of the men and women of the department.”
Solomon did not skip over the bumpy road to reach a three-year contract in which firefighters gave up a total of seven sick, holiday and personal days; agreed that firefighters hired after July 1, 2019 pay into a trust fund to help pay for post-retirement health care; and took no pay raise in the first year followed by 2 percent raises in the second and third years.
“Tonight, as we celebrate your determination always to better yourselves and continue to improve the way we serve our citizens, businesses and visitors, we also recognize a new way forward for the relationship between the city and its firefighters,” he said.
“As we all know, thanks to the persistence of union leadership and the city’s negotiating team, we recently reached a three-year agreement. It was not always an easy road to ratification – one firefighter, remarked that he ‘never fought so hard to give up so much.’ Ultimately, however, we reached a resolution that is a win for our community’s taxpayers, fair to the union and good for the future fiscal health of our city,” the mayor said.
The mayor also quoted segments of a letter to the editor by Briget D’Antonio, in which she described the dedication of her husband, Warwick firefighter Joseph D’Antonio.
“I truly believe that those who enter firefighting as a profession haven’t chosen a career, but instead are answering a calling,” the mayor said.
Those recognized at the ceremony and the dates of their promotions can be viewed in the photos at the top of the article.