RIVER VALE, N.J. — If he were alive today, the River Vale Volunteer Fire Department’s first chief would be proud to know that his great-great-granddaughter will be sworn in as its first female chief on Jan. 1.
Kellie Goodell represents the fifth generation in her family to serve as the RVFD chief, beginning with Leopold Hermann.
The passion to be just like her father and other family firefighters has carried Goodell to the position.
“I used to stand at the top of the stairs and ask my dad if I could come with him on calls to the firehouse,” the captain said. “He said no, because then I’d have to sit at the firehouse and wait.”
Goodell joined the cadet program the very day that she was allowed to — on her 13th birthday.
She swiftly moved up the ranks and eventually served as lieutenant while her father was chief.
Now Goodell will be chief while her father serves as deputy once she is sworn in Friday at the annual borough reorganization meeting.
“We work well together,” Goodell said. “It makes it easier that he sits at the same kitchen table that I do.”
Her colleagues have become family, too.
“I get along with all the guys in the fire department. They’re like my big brothers and my fathers, and I’m like their little sister or daughter,” she said.
Goodell said her experience as a Fort Lee dispatcher has helped prepare her for becoming chief since she’s accustomed to the decision-making that comes with being a first responder.
In 2011, she was the dispatcher who got the call that ended up saving the life of a Westwood DPW worker whose left arm was being crushed by a garbage truck.
Despite the inevitable and tragic situations that Goodell sees on the job, the rush that comes with responding to calls and saving lives remain invigorating and fulfilling.
“The excitement is still there,” the captain said. “Just with a lot more responsibility.”
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