Massachusetts Department Names New Chief

Updated: 01-11-2007 02:52:03 PM

TELEGRAM & GAZETTE (Massachusetts)

CHARLTON, Mass.-- Fire Capt. Charles E. Cloutier was selected by the Board of Selectmen to succeed retiring Fire Chief Ralph Harris, after last night's final interviews of two candidates.

Capt. Cloutier's appointment as the department's second full-time chief will be made at the board's meeting on Jan. 16, Peter J. Boria, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said in a phone interview.

Capt. Cloutier and Southbridge's Larry McDonald, a former Dudley fire chief who last worked for the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy, were the finalists interviewed last night.

Capt. Cloutier was chosen, Mr. Boria said, because he "presented himself with the ability to lead the department in a positive direction, and have the members of the department follow him in that direction, and groom the department to the growing needs of the town."

Capt. Cloutier had already assumed a strong leadership role within the department, the selectman said.

"He's done presentations on behalf of the Fire Department to the board and he's been involved in new initiatives in front of the board, and getting things done for the town," Mr. Boria said.

The position was advertised with an annual starting salary of up to $75,000, Mr. Boria said.

Capt. Cloutier's appointment is pending a criminal and background check.

"We should be able to have our new chief ready to go by the time Chief Harris leaves," Mr. Boria said. "We just have to confirm the salary and we're all set."

The board received about 30 applications and interviewed seven candidates. Three candidates were interviewed Jan. 2 and four were interviewed Saturday, Mr. Boria said.

Other candidates within the department interviewed were Firefighter Ralph Harris Jr., and Assistant Fire Chiefs Mike L. Mahan and Curtis J. Meskus. Mark DiFronzo and Cleighton Tourtellotte were the other outside candidates.

Chief Harris, a 43-year veteran of the Fire Department, said last night he is retiring Feb. 10. He had been a call chief since 1989 and became the department's first full-time chief in 1998. Chief Harris, who led about 45 firefighters, 12 of them full-time, said he is most proud of modernizing equipment and implementing safety innovations for firefighters.