When asked if he wanted to be a firefighter since he was a little kid, Stefano “Steve” Napolitano wasted no time in responding.
“One hundred percent correct,” he said. “When I was 6 years old, my uncle John – we lived in Long Island then – took me to the fire station where he worked and when I saw those giant, red fire trucks, I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ Ever since then, I wanted to be a firefighter.”
Napolitano’s dream came true at the tender age of 18 when he was accepted as a volunteer firefighter with the Frankfort fire company, and he progressed through the ranks to become the deputy fire chief for the Village of Herkimer.
In less than a month, April 17th to be exact, he will continue his firefighting journey when he begins his tenure as chief of the City of Batavia Fire Department.
“There is a renaissance that is taking place (in Batavia) and a quality of life improvement, and as far as public safety is concerned we want to enhance that to continue to attract industry and mom-and-pop businesses,” he said.
Napolitano, a Queens native who has lived in the Mohawk Valley for about 45 of his 50 years (he turned 50 on March 13th), said he appreciated the thorough process that resulted in his hiring by City Manager Jason Molino.
“It has been a long process; we started in September of last year,” he said. “They did an outstanding job of vetting people, and by the grace of God, I was fortunate enough to be chosen. I look forward to working with an outstanding group of individuals in the fire department and those who are part of the executive team.”
Napolitano sees himself as a “boots on the ground-type firefighter” but he also has continually taken steps to educate himself on the finer points of firefighting.
A mechanical engineer by trade, he has used his expertise to design fire trucks, consult on fire equipment and coordinate major projects. He said he has spent hundreds of hours in classroom training en route to becoming a certified code enforcement officer and state fire instructor.
His varied background – he’s been with the Herkimer fire department for 25 years -- also includes a stint as deputy director the Herkimer County Office of Emergency Services from 2008-2015, where he assisted with local disaster and emergency management plans, the county 9-1-1 dispatch communication center and the administration of the county’s mutual aid plan, mutual aid radio system and state fire training.
In 1996, he founded Advanced Technologies, a company that served as a regional fire equipment distributor offering quality products at fair market prices. He recently sold it to Herkimer Industries, a divison of the Herkimer ARC, a nonprofit agency servicing those with disabilities and special needs. Napolitano continues to serve as a consultant to company officials.
Calling his hiring “a promotion in so many ways,” Napolitano said he looks forward to meeting the 40 or so members of the Batavia department and “coming in to enhance the great things they are already doing.”
“Just look at the department’s Facebook page and you can see how much they are involved in community service projects,” he said.
He also credited Dan Herberger, who had been serving as interim chief, for doing an “outstanding job.”
Napolitano leaves behind a chief and co-workers in Herkimer who have nothing but respect for his knowledge, ability and positive outlook.
“Steve is very well regarded, and very knowledgeable in apparatus, as a state fire inspector, an EMT and deputy chief,” said Herkimer Fire Chief John Stanfelner.
“He was one of my go-to people. I’ve always said that I don’t know everything, so I go to the people who do know. If you ask him a question, he will give you the right answer or do what it takes to give you the answer.”
Napolitano said he is working with a couple of real estate agents to find a place to live in Batavia.
He has two children – a daughter, Alyssa, who just took a job at Oswego State College, and a son, Steve, a third-year student at St. Lawrence University in Canton.
And, by the way, he said to the best of his knowledge he is not related to former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano or Fox News TV personality Judge Andrew Napolitano.