From Chief Ken March
"From the very first time I set foot in the door here I felt like I was
coming home. And as we all know, home is where the heart is. The
Wilmington Fire Department is a department that I am very proud to be a
part of. The members are dedicated not only to protecting and helping
the people that depend on us, but we are dedicated helping and
supporting to each other. That’s what families are for, and here at the
station that’s exactly what it feels like, family. The Wilmington
Fire Department is a great place to be. And I am very proud to be part
of the Wilmington Fire Department. "
By Mike Eldred - Jan 2009 Deerfield Valley
WILMINGTON- After more than a year of searching for new a fire chief, Wilmington has hired Massachusetts native Ken March to lead their fire department.
March took the helm of the department at the beginning of the New Year. Originally from Acton, MA, March brings more than three decades of experience from his job in , where he served in a dual role as the town’s public works director and a captain and training officer on the fire department. In his role as public works director he was responsible for everything from cemeteries to building and maintenance.
With two major highways running through Boxborough, Route 2 and I-495, March says the Boxborough Fire Department kept busy responding to a lot of accidents. "We also had a small airport there, and every once in while a airplane would flop out of the sky and we’d respond to that."
The Boxborough Fire Department has full-time staffing during the day, and per-diem volunteers respond during the evenings. In his role as training officer, March maintained the department at a high standard of certification, with 98% of department members certified at the firefighter II level.
March is no stranger to the Deerfield Valley. He and his family own a camp in Wardsboro and have been visiting the valley for more than 20 years. "We love the area, and planned on moving up here," March said, "so the timing was just right for us." For now his family remains in Massachusetts until his son finishes a high school biotech engineering program, but they’ll be visiting on weekends and school vacations.
So far, March appears to be settling into the job, says Richard Covey, who served as acting chief during the interim. "I think he’s going to fit in very well," Covey says. "He’s a regular guy who likes to work, and as far as I’ve heard everyone’s happy with him."
March describes himself as a "hands-on guy," and that’s what the department and the town’s hiring committee were looking for, according to Town Manager Bob Rusten.
Former chief Troy Johnson and his wife Kathy Johnson, who served as a part-time Wilmington and school secretary at Twin Valley High School, moved to Wilmington in 2003. Johnson had been hired to replace chief Brian Johnson. When Troy Johnson surprised selectboard members with his resignation in August 2007, the town didn’t advertise the open position right away. Fire department officers took the opportunity to re-evaluate the duties and responsibilities of the chief’s position. They eventually recommended that the position should continue to be a full-time position, but with the reduction of a number of peripheral responsibilities. Fire department matters should take priority, they said.
"We came up with a mission and vision statement from the officers and firefighters," says Town Manager Bob Rusten, "and a description of the qualifications that would be needed to achieve that vision. What I’ve found in the past is that many times people have the technical skills, but it’s the people skills that can make a difference. We needed someone who could deal with conflict and reach out tothe community."
After re-evaluating the position, the department created a new job description and advertised for a new chief. After a two-step interview process, the hiring committee narrowed the field of candidates to just two. "We tried to hire both, but for various reasons we weren’t able to hire either one of them."
Although it had already been a long hiring process, rather than choosing a candidate from the list of applicants who had been previously ruled out, the committee started the hiring process anew, eventually narrowing the field down to March, who accepted the job.
Rusten says the process was intended to find a chief who would lead the department in the direction it sought to go. "We were really looking for someone who was team-oriented," Rusten says. "Someone who would create an inclusive atmosphere with the officers and the firefighters. We felt Ken met those qualifications."
Covey says professional expertise was a priority, but recruiting and education were also top concerns. "We were looking for a guy who had a good knowledge of firefighting, with a good background in training," Covey says. "But we were also looking for someone who would go into the elementary schools, like Brian Johnson did."
Johnson’s attention to the schools, his work with students, and his junior firefighter program are credited with keeping the ranks filled at the all-volunteer department.