NORTH WILDWOOD ─ Brought to the Wildwoods in the summer of 1948; Lewis Ostrander told the Herald "All I know is Wildwood," though years of dedication to safety reflect a well-rounded career in public service. As of Nov. 1, Ostrander will retire from his position as Fire and Housing Inspector.
The Ostrander family, originally from Philadelphia, dug deep roots in the Wildwoods. Three of the young Ostranders became involved in island life, including the fire department and police department.
Ostrander, 70, began his career shortly after his marriage in 1972. "I joined the Anglesea Fire Company," said Ostrander. He remains a life-time member of the volunteer company.
Ostrander, amid other jobs, fought fires and other disasters for 13 years.
"Things happen," said Ostrander, explaining his eventual promotion to president of the fire company.
Then, in 1974, an unexpected invitation to lunch from North Wildwood Mayor Anthony Catanoso changed Ostrander's direction. According to Ostrander, Catanoso, a close friend of his father, suggested he consider public office as a councilman.
"My dad was part of that," Ostrander said. Ostrander pointed out the irony of the situation: Catanoso was Republican while his father was a "Philly Democrat."
For 13 years, Ostrander sat on the council and served as council president. However, with increasing business in Bradshaw Heating and Cooling (Ostrander's brother-in-law), a marine supply store in Wildwood, and his own general contracting, Ostrander stepped away from public life for a time in the 1980s.
"It got hectic," Ostrander said simply.
After a time, North Wildwood solicited for the position of fire inspector and Ostrander applied. Ostrander was chosen during the Mayor William Henfey administration.
"I started from scratch," Ostrander said, describing early days when the state carried out inspections.
Moving to a larger location at the fire house at Second and Atlantic avenues, Ostrander began hiring other inspectors, including Dominick McClain and Ron Harwood.
Both McClain and Harwood serve as fire chiefs in their respective communities, North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest.
"I couldn't have done it without them," said Ostrander, emphasizing the importance of working together for the safety of North Wildwood and the island at large.
Ostrander also praised his secretary Cathy for being "the glue that holds the office together." Both Cathy and Harwood "came on board" after the office relocated to its present location.
"The city was gracious," Ostrander said, explaining his education and certification. Ostrander holds both a bachelor's and master's degree in science.
Ostrander also ensured his inspectors were able to obtain their certification for specific needs in the city.
Armed with an interactive fire trailer and house, Ostrander has seen over 10,000 students instructed in fire safety throughout the years. With a lower rating from fire insurance companies, the City of North Wildwood holds a 3 rating and has won a safety award.
According to Ostrander, lower ratings help reduce fire insurance costs for local business owners.
"I could not have done it without mayor and council," Ostrander concluded. "They never let us down. Never."
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