North Yarmouth taps public safety assistant as fire chief

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NORTH YARMOUTH — The town’s public safety assistant will soon be wearing the fire chief hat, too.

Ricky Plummer of Biddeford, who was hired late last year in his current position, has held fire chief positions in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Florida.

The Board of Selectmen voted last week to hire Plummer as part-time fire chief. He will replace Clark Baston, who will continue as road foreman for the Public Works Department, on July 1.

“I’m honored,” Plummer said last week. “It’s great to carry on a tradition of a department that’s come a long way.”

Plummer’s proposed annual stipend as chief, $8,000, as well as funding for an increase in his weekly public safety assistant hours from 20 to 30, will be voted on at Town Meeting June 16. The increase would add nearly $10,000 to Plummer’s annual wage, bringing it to about $28,000, according to Steven Palmer, vice chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

“(Plummer) has been embraced by the people that he’s worked with through the year, and that relationship has just gotten better as time has gone on,” Palmer said Monday. “… We’ve been very happy with his performance as public safety assistant, and we have no reason to doubt that there should be any reason for him to have anything but great success as a fire chief.”

The Board of Selectmen voted 4-1 to hire Plummer as chief. Darla Hamlin, who voted in opposition, noted Monday that there were “three excellent candidates” for the job, and that “I actually feel personally that Ricky is very well qualified … and I was just leaning toward somebody who had been a resident of the community for a long time, and (who) I felt had more of a connection to the community … and was every bit as qualified.”

She added that she feels “very comfortable with the decision” to hire Plummer.

Plummer’s hiring as public safety assistant last year followed the transition of the town fire company to a fire and rescue department, a change approved at the June 2011 Town Meeting.

The 55-year-old, who is married and has four children and three grandchildren, has been a full-time firefighter for 35 years. He has served in that capacity in North Yarmouth, and was chief of the Marlborough, Mass., Fire Department from April 2010 through August 2011, when an illness convinced him to take things a little easier.

He then saw an ad for the North Yarmouth job and was attracted to working in a smaller department.

“Having a few months off, and then working here part-time” has given Plummer a good opportunity to recuperate, he said last week, and he is ready to tackle the job of chief.

“I wish (Baston) was going to stay a bit longer, because I like working with the chief,” Plummer said. “He’s a great guy.”

He noted that his two roles will blend together, and that “a lot of stuff that I do is stuff the chief would normally do.”

There will be no set hours for his role of chief; “whatever it takes to do the job,” Plummer said.

Plummer previously was fire-rescue chief and public safety and emergency management agency director in Gray (2007-2010), fire-rescue chief and emergency management director in Cocoa, Fla. (2005-2007), and Biddeford (2003-2005), and fire chief and public safety and EMA director in Standish (2001-2003).

In New Hampshire, he was town manager of Milton from 1995-1996 and fire chief in Portsmouth from 1996-2001. He has also served as a forest fire warden and instructor for a firefighter rookie school.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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Ricky Plummer, currently North Yarmouth’s public safety assistant, will also become fire chief on July 1.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.