This is Mike Tarantino
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photo credits: Jennifer Capoano
Earlier last month, both Mike Tarantino and his wife, Jane, were honored for their fifty years of service to the Borough of Rutherford. Many Rutherford residents see Mike throughout the community at town events, at the Ambulance Corps building, giving presentations and workshops, training prospective members of the Ambulance Corps, and much more. Mike knows exactly what it means to serve his community. His unlimited energy, enthusiasm, and true concern for the safety and well-being of those around him have not gone unnoticed. This is Rutherford had the opportunity to learn more about Mike and the important role he plays in the community.
TIR: What did you study in college?
Mike Tarantino: I went to FDU where I received my Master of Administrative Science, with a certificate in Global Leadership.
TIR: What was your first career?
MT: My first career was in Law Enforcement, State of New Jersey, Department of Law & Public Safety.
TIR: When were you hired as the Director of the Bergen County EMS Training Center?
MT: In 1991, I started as a part-time Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Instructor, 2010 Emergency Medical Technician program Coordinator, and in 2012 I became a Training Center Director.
“Mike and I have been friends for just about 40 years going back to the first aid squad and as our lives evolved our personal and professional paths continued to cross. More recently Mike and I serve as the Borough Emergency Management coordinators and often teach together at the Bergen County EMS training center. While we do make a terrific team teaching Rescue Task Force and ICS courses. we often have the class enjoying our stand-up comedy routine… you can guess who the straight guy is…(laughs). Mike's lifelong commitment to first responder public service extends to not only the Borough, but to the County, and State as well," explained Matt Ziemkiewicz, Deputy Coordinator of the Borough.
TIR: How have emergency medical services changed throughout the years?
MT: Our ambulances have changed from car bodies to the current trucks, training has increased from about 50 hours to 220 hours and 48 hours recertification,
TIR: How long have you been part of the Rutherford First-Aid Ambulance Corps?
MT: I joined the youth squad in September 1971 (50 years).
Stephanie McGowan explained, “Mike is the consummate professional. His dedication to this community is beyond reproach. In addition to being dependable, he is also kind, compassionate, and an amazing role model for many. I’m very thankful to call him my friend.”
TIR: Which positions have you held within the Ambulance Corps?
MT: Youth squad training Officer, Youth Squad Lieutenant, Squad 2nd Lieutenant, Squad Training Officer, Squad Captain, Corporation Vice President, Corporation President, and
Chairperson of many different committees.
TIR: How have you seen things change at the Ambulance Corps throughout your time there?
MT: During my 50 years, I have seen ambulances change from high-topped car base ambulances (Cadillac’s) to our modern custom-built ambulances. Additionally, I have seen our training become more comprehensive by providing the knowledge and skills necessary to stabilize and safely transport patients ranging from the routine call to life-threatening emergencies.
"It has been my pleasure knowing Mike throughout my years working for the Rutherford Health Department. I wish him good health and happiness as he continues on his journey helping the residents of Rutherford and Bergen County. He received his calling 50 years ago to volunteer his services and there has been no stopping him. Here’s to many more years of service to his community,” Linda A. Hricik, Rutherford Health Department, told TIR.
TIR: Why did you choose to be an EMT?
MT: I am proud of our family tradition. I am a third-generation member of the ambulance corps and my daughter, Jennifer Capoano, is a fourth-generation member. I met my wife Jane at Rutherford Ambulance Squad where we were both members.
“Tradition is what comes to mind when I think about Mike. Very few reach this milestone of 50 years of service to the Borough. His Grandfather and Father were members of the Rutherford Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and he followed carrying on what they had started. His dedication, commitment, and love to the Borough are what many should strive for,” Friend and First Responder Colleague, Julie Ann Zeigler, told TIR.
TIR: Why would you encourage others to become EMTs?
MT: It is a gratifying experience. In addition, our organization is like a family and it is a great feeling to be with everyone. Our members are dedicated and a great group to work with
“Michael represents all that is good in society. Having had an extensive and commendable career in law enforcement, Michael has done his part to better this profession and all who have had the privilege to work alongside him at the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice. Here in Rutherford, Michael is a true friend to all of us here at the Rutherford Police Department. In his roles as Coordinator of the Office of Emergency Management and Captain of the Rutherford Volunteer Ambulance Corps., he continues to tirelessly give back to this community. I personally appreciate and can count on his timely input towards whatever significant emergency challenge presents itself here in the Borough,” Chief John Russo told TIR.
TIR: What is happening now at the Ambulance Corps? Have there been recent changes?
MT: Our biggest challenge to date has been COVID. I am honored that our squad members did not shun our mission and handled every call professionally. We also handled every situation that we have encountered from Tropical Storm Sandy to winter weather emergencies to tropical storms.
”There is an old saying, 'jack of all trades, master of none,' but that certainly is not the case with Mike's involvement in many, many areas of emergency services. Mike is the third generation of family members who have been associated with the volunteer ambulance corps in town. Mike is not only a master in many areas of emergency medical services by serving as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for 50 years, an EMT instructor, Director of the Bergen County EMS Training Center, currently is the Squad Captain of our organization, but also is the borough's Coordinator for the Office of Emergency Management. Mike wears many, many hats and is a master in all areas of emergency services that he is involved with. Mike is a true asset to this fine borough,” Borough of Rutherford’s Health Official, Brian O’Keefe explained.