Durham seeks successor to longtime fire chief

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DURHAM — The town is searching for a new fire rescue chief and emergency management director after Bill St. Michel announced his retirement.

At 62, St. Michel is ready to retire after 25 years as chief of the department. But he said he hopes to stay involved as an on-call volunteer, driving trucks, where he began at age 18.

Since 1973, St. Michel worked his way up through the ranks. He became volunteer chief in 1993 and full-time chief in 2001.

“I thoroughly enjoy the fire service,” St. Michel said. “My family and I have grown up with (the department).”

The town is accepting applications for St. Michel’s replacement, with the hope of hiring someone by Jan. 23, 2018. The tentative starting date for a new chief is Feb. 1, with St. Michel’s last day scheduled to be Feb. 28.

Candidates must be familiar with the operations of a volunteer and per-diem department, and should have an understanding of the department’s legal and public policy environment, as well as best management practices of the field.

St. Michel said he hopes the hiring process goes as planned, so he has some overlap time to work alongside and train the new chief.

“It’s time for somebody different,” he said. “Someone younger, with new ideas, would be better for the department.”

Candidate applications will be accepted and reviewed by Town Administrator Ruth Glaeser and the Board of Selectman through Nov. 28. Glaeser and the board plan to conduct two rounds of candidate interviews through December and January, with input from the department.

St. Michel said he would like to assist with the hiring process, but knows the town will have the final say.

“I’m turning a piece of my life and my family over to someone else,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough job to pick someone to give (that) to.”

The opening was advertised this month. Glaeser said on Oct. 24 that the town so far has not received any applications.

The new chief’s salary hasn’t been decided, but Glaeser said she suspects it will be set somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000 per year.

“We have pretty big shoes to fill, but we’re sure going to try,” she said. “(St. Michel) takes care of the department … he’s always thinking about what’s best for the community.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

St. Michel