The town of Greenwich conducted a national search for a new fire chief to replace Peter Siecienski who retired after a 48 year career, of which 14 years were spent with the Greenwich Fire Department.
At Thursday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, First Selectman Fred Camillo said the search resulted in 40 applicants.
The 40 were whittled down to eight candidates who were then presented to First Selectman Camillo and his committee which included town administrator Ben Branyan, HR director Mary Pepe, Deputy Chief Bob Kick, and for the first time ever, the union was part of the committee with Matt Brooks joining the committee. The committee also included Dave Walko who represented the volunteers.
The eight candidates included two internal candidates.
“The last five candidates, which was the second round of interviews – anyone of of these guys could have done the job,” Camillo said, adding, “It is a big day for Greenwich , a really proud day for the department.”
Camillo presented Joe McHugh for a vote by the board. McHugh is currently Fire Department of the City of New York Battalion Chief.
“He came with enthusiasm, and such a respect for both the career guys and the volunteers,” Camillo said. “Everyone on the panel saw that.”
McHugh grew up in Greenwich and was a volunteer with the Sound Beach Volunteer Fire Dept.
Selectperson Jill Oberlander, who abstained from the vote, said while the BOS has the authority to approve appointments of department heads, and that in order not to be a rubber stamp, she said, “The members of the board need to be participants in the interview process.”
“I cannot vote for this appointment having not been part of the selection process,” she said. “There is no foundation for me to determine he was the right person out of your pool of candidates.”
“This position was not intended to be a rubber stamp,” she added. “I encourage a broadening of the selection process to give a real voice to the Board of Selectmen as a whole.”
“I don’t want to get into the back and forth with you on this,” Camillo said. “This is a good moment for the fire dept the town and the McHugh family. The process is what it is.”
“It is an exciting day for Greenwich,” said Selectwoman Rabin.
Camilo said Robert Kick would continue to serve as acting chief until Monday, when Mr. McHugh is sworn in at 10:30am.
Mr. Kick said he applauded the decision. “We saw very good candidates and Chief McHugh rose to the top of the heap,” he said.
Chief McHugh will be sworn in an outdoor ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Monday, August 31, at the Greenwich Public Safety Complex, 11 Bruce Place. He will officially assume his new role on September 14, 2020. Assistant Chief Robert Kick will continue serving as Interim Fire Chief until then.