A 21-year member of the Buffalo Fire Department is its new Commissioner. Vincent Muscarella and new Community Services and Recreational Programming Commissioner Otis Barker were the two first-timers among nine department heads confirmed Tuesday by the Buffalo Common Council.
Muscarella's firefighting career began 27 years ago. He joined the Buffalo Fire Department in 1996, graduating from the recruit academy that year. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 2009 and Captain in 2013. He was named Deputy Commissioner in July 2016 and replaces Garnell Whitfield, who retired as Commissioner last year.
Mayor Byron Brown noted that for the past six months, Muscarella was managing the department along with fellow Deputy Commissioner Jonathan Eaton.
"Muscarella was really able to show his command and knowledge of fire service in the period of time he has served as an interim commissioner of the Buffalo Fire Department," Mayor Brown said.
His confirmation by the Common Council went smoothly. Muscarella told lawmakers that the challenges to his department include the overall change in fire service and how it's provided. He spoke later of his plans for the department.
"I have a three-step process that we've already started, starting with promotions," said Muscarella. "We're going to promote our firefighters into leadership positions to help more efficiently manage the department itself. Then, we're starting a rookie class of firefighters on February 5. And right now, we're working hand-in-hand with the union, a very great relationship with the fire union, to sign a contract going forward, which is the third step in our process."
New Community Services Commissioner Otis T. Barker, like Muscarella, was serving in a deputy role before earning promotion. Barker was Deputy Commissioner since 2011 and leads a department that provides programming including summer youth literacy, youth internship and employment, senior services, and assistance to human service needs including reaching out to the homeless.
Barker pointed out that during the Brown Administration, youth internship and employment opportunities have grown exponentially.
"We had 1,680 kids last year who had job opportunities," he said. "Prior to the mayor's administration, prior to him being elected mayor, the internship program only accommodated 100 children."
Like Muscarella, Barker was asked about the challenges facing his department.
"Whatever the task is, we will extend ourselves to make sure that we complete it," he replied.
Seven other department heads were reconfirmed to their positions: Timothy A. Ball (Corporation Counsel), James Comerford (Permits and Inspection Services), Daniel Derenda (Police), Donna J. Estrich (Administration, Finance Policy and Urban Affairs), Kevin Helfer (Parking), Gladys Herndon-Hill (Human Resources) and Steven J. Stepniak (Public Works, Parks and Streets).