Chris A. Reed of Sparrow Bush, N.Y., was named Rumford fire chief Thursday evening. (Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times)

RUMFORD — The Board of Selectmen voted 4-0 Thursday night to approve Chris A. Reed of Sparrow Bush, N.Y., as fire chief.

He is a career firefighter who most recently was a fire and technical rescue instructor for the New York State Department of Homeland Security.

Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs said Reed’s annual salary will be $60,000, with benefits.

Reed and his wife, Stephani, listened as selectmen debated how the selection process was handled.

Selectman Mark Belanger said, “We’ve been totally kept in the dark and not briefed on anything until … this packet was put in our box this week.”

He asked why other options, such as regionalization, were not considered.

Chairman Chris Brennick asked why regionalization was being raised at the end of the selection process.

A committee composed of Briggs, Police Chief Stacy Carter, outgoing Fire Chief Robert Chase, Deputy Fire Chief Chris Bryant and Code Enforcement Officer Richard Coulombe did the search and interviewed five candidates.

“The board gave direction to go out for a national search and that was what was done,” Carter said.

“I’ve been here 28 years and have been through numerous hirings of police and fire personnel, and the town manager has always brought the name forward, and it’s been basically a formality for the Board of Selectmen to approve.”

Carter said: “We picked, unanimously, the best candidate before us, and I hope you would see that we had qualified people on the interview committee. This is an embarrassment. Make it right.”

The audience, many of them firefighters, applauded.

Selectman Jim Windover said when Chase was hired selectmen sat in on the interviews.

“I’ve checked with past town managers and it’s always been done that way, when we’re hiring the chief’s position,” Windover said. “When you’re hiring the head of a department, who’s going to be reporting to us and the town manager, I’d like to have some input on that.”

Chase, who said he fully supported Reed’s nomination, said: “It would be a shame to miss this opportunity. … It would be a shame for the town. I strongly urge you to get this right.”

“Let’s try to get the information we need that we don’t have,” Brennick said.

Belanger asked Reed about his philosophy on the Fire Department.

“The health and safety of the firefighters is very important,” Reed said. “I’m a firm believer is volunteering. My wife is a volunteer firefighter as well.”

Belanger asked if he would be willing to look for ways to regionalize.

“If it makes sense financially, as well as the right amount of coverage, it’s something to get together and look at,” Reed said.

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