By Nicholas Deckmejian
It all began in 1966, under the leadership of Holmdel’s first chief of police, Joseph Phillips, who was joined by his son R. Bruce Phillips and John Brady as his only police officers to patrol what was then a sleepy rural community. In 1971, R. Bruce Phillips stepped into his father’s role to become the second police chief. He was succeeded, upon his retirement in 2004, by Chief Raymond Wilson. Today, the Holmdel Police Department – 39 full-time and two part-time officers strong, covering 20 square miles with 18,000 residents – is headed up by its fourth leader, Chief John Mioduszewski, as the department reaches a significant milestone. On November 4, the Holmdel Police Department invited the community to join them as they celebrated the culmination of their 50th anniversary year. Hosted at the beautiful Grand Marquis in Old Bridge, the event allowed the Holmdel PBA to graciously treat their guests to an extraordinary evening to match their extraordinary service for the past half century.
More than 400 guests from throughout the area showed up to not only take part in a lavish evening, but to also show their support for the men and woman who serve them. After handing the car keys over to the valet, folks in suits and gowns were warmly greeted by members of the PBA who were manning tables piled with various Holmdel PBA-themed merchandise, including shirts, mugs, and little stuffed Bald Eagles wearing tiny Holmdel shirts.
The evening began with a cocktail hour split between two rooms, where guests could mingle back and forth. Walking into the main room, guests were challenged as to where to focus their attention first as they gazed around the spectacular room with its soft blue glow, scanned the sharply dressed crowd, and admired the great ice sculpture that was crafted into a large number 50 to honor the anniversary. Others followed their noses, as mouth-watering scents led them to a magnificent array of pre-dinner treats. The assortment of culinary spoils included an impressive antipasti spread, multiple carving stations, a made-to-order mashed potato station, and a raw bar with a boatload of lobster, crab legs, and oysters. The open bar captured its fair share of patrons, as guests chowed down and clinked glasses with friends, floating between the large room and the smaller room, with another bar and multiple food stations. It wasn’t long before the entire place was buzzing with chatter, cheer, and laughter as guests enjoyed the exciting atmosphere of the evening. As the cocktail hour came to an end, everyone was escorted to the grand ballroom for the main portion of the night, where elegantly arranged tables filled the massive room where the guests would continue to dine, drink, and dance.
Holmdel Police Chief John Mioduszewski welcomed the crowd as they shuffled around the room looking for their assigned tables. Before diving into the joy of the evening, Chief Mioduszewski first acknowledged the recent tragedies in law enforcement that occurred in Iowa earlier that week and in New York just hours before the event started. The chief asked for a moment of silence and reflection “for those who served and continue to serve this great country.” Immediately after the moment of silence, Father Abraham Wassef of St. Mina Coptic Orthodox Church gave the invocation and a blessing. Following his prayer, the Holmdel PBA Honor Guard marched into the center of the ballroom for the presentation of colors. As the officers stood at attention with their flags raised high, 13-year-old Isabella Marino gave a stunning performance of the National Anthem.
Once the Honor Guard marched back out of the room, Father Abraham Wassef returned to the podium to speak to the crowd before he had to return to his church, joking, “I won’t take too long. This isn’t a sermon.” Fr. Abraham expressed his gratitude to everyone in the room, and especially the Holmdel Police. He congratulated the department on their 50th anniversary and relied upon his knowledge of the Bible to find added significance to an already remarkable evening. He said that the number 50 was referenced more than 150 times in the Bible and was often associated with “fullness, completeness, wholeness – something good.” He continued to explain that a 50th year is a year of freedom and celebration, otherwise known as the Year of Jubilee, which seemed to be a great fit with the spirit of the evening.
Chief John Mioduszewski returned to the podium and asked everyone to take notice of the slide shows being projected around the room. All evening long, the images would play to illustrate the department’s rich history, which he elaborated further. The chief explained that there has been a remarkable effort to not only remember the many great moments, but also physically collect tokens of the past, such as a 1964 Ford Galaxy 500 remodeled into a spitting image of Holmdel’s original police car. The vehicle has become a familiar sight parked at the intersection in front of town hall, as well as at community events held this year. Along with bringing Holmdel Police artifacts back into the light of day, the department also made efforts to create some new points of pride to help honor their legacy. For example, officers were provided with a special badge to wear throughout the year to commemorate their 50th anniversary, and there was an unveiling of a plaque that honored all the Holmdel officers that ever served.
PBA President John Allen received the microphone next and expressed his gratitude to everyone who supports their police department. He explained how their consistent support not only benefits the officers themselves, but also the numerous local charities that the department assists. “Without you,” said Officer Allen, “none of this would be possible.” After cracking a few jokes, he then took time to recognize several distinguished guests around the room before focusing his appreciation on Chief Mioduszewski. The PBA president served as a virtual guide through the many years of the chief’s career. Starting in 1987, Chief Mioduszewski was a leader in crime prevention efforts that would eventually lead to him starting many programs that are still around today, like Holmdel’s Neighborhood Watch group, the oldest in Monmouth County. The chief has collected numerous accolades during his career, and Officer Allen was excited to add another to the collection, saying, “It is my great honor to recognize Chief Mioduszewski on this historic evening” and presenting a plaque to recognize the chief’s 29 years of remarkable service as he was named Man of the Year. Before conceding the podium, Officer Allen also praised the 50th Anniversary Committee for their tediously hard work throughout the year and making such a wonderful evening a reality. The committee included: Chief John Mioduszewski, Captain Frank Allocco, Lieutenant Jeffrey Ackerson, Lieutenant Michael Pigott, Detective Eric Hernando, Patrolman John Allen, Patrolman Michael Michalski, Patrolman Christopher Cherney, Patrolman Jonathan Martin, Patrolman Michael Dowens, Elizabeth Bird, and Valerie Zudonyi.
Deputy Director Freeholder Serena DiMaso commandeered the microphone next and was joined at the podium by Freeholder Director Thomas Arnone, Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden, and other dignitaries to share a few words. Ms. DiMaso expressed her own personal affection for the department, saying, “These gentlemen and ladies have been an integral part of what makes Holmdel great.” She then presented the chief with a certificate for 50 years of outstanding service and revealed that the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders joined with the Holmdel governing body, residents, and friends to help celebrate and honor this momentous occasion by forever remembering November 4, 2016 officially as Holmdel Police Department Day.
Chief Mioduszewski shared a few final thoughts, and it was apparent that he was brimming with appreciation for all the love and support swirling around in the room. He spoke to the families of officers, emphasizing how important it is to “support all of those who support us… the wives, the husbands, the mothers and fathers, the children and grandchildren – and even the in-laws.” All the police families were asked to stand up and were honored with a roaring applause. Last, but not least, were the people who warranted some of the greatest appreciation from the chief: the department’s employees, who he referred to as the “true VIPs,” and the officers, who he called “the backbone of the department.”
After the speeches were finished, the evening’s celebrations continued. And even with the marvelous food and drink, fabulous décor, and enthusiastic entertainment, the most incredible part of the evening was still the simple, heartfelt demonstration of support for the Holmdel officers. Fancy fanfare is a great way to celebrate a milestone, but it’s the small, day-to-day actions of the police department that has served the community for five decades that matter most, culminating into the immense degree of respect that the department has earned from the community. When the bar announced last call and the DJ stopped the music, when the guests all returned to their cars and went home, the Holmdel Police returned to their shifts to serve the community with the same commitment they’ve exhibited for 50 years. It is that same level of commitment that the community owes the department in return, as we all hope to be part of many more years of excellence.