Town Manager Wayne Marquis wrapped up the last details on the appointment of a new fire chief this week, announcing on Tuesday that Kevin Farrell, who had been serving as the acting chief of the department for the last year, was given the job permanently.
“I am pleased to announce the appointment of Kevin P. Farrell as our new fire chief, effective on March 28, 2011,” Marquis said in a memo released late Tuesday afternoon.
Farrell, who first joined the Fire Department’s ranks in 1988 after three years as a public safety dispatcher, was selected from a field of four candidates, each of whom undertook a comprehensive assessment process overseen by the Civil Service.
“I was hoping this day would come,” Farrell said on Wednesday, adding that it’s as if a “huge weight” has now been lifted from his shoulders. “You never want to count your [eggs] before they hatch.”
In Farrell’s case, he’s been waiting for a few decades. The 47-year-old Danvers native says he first dreamed of becoming Fire Chief as a young boy. He’d come right home after school to watch his favorite TV show – “Emergency!” – and the latest exploits of Station 51 of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. And when he wasn’t watching there, he’d be observing in person, hanging out at Fire Headquarters.
Farrell said part of his fascination and now enjoyment of the job is that each day presents a unique set of challenges, always exciting and requiring skill, knowledge and some common sense to overcome.
“It’s the greatest job in the world,” he said.
Farrell was promoted to Fire Lieutenant in 1996 and Deputy Fire Chief in 2005 under former Chief James Tutko. Following Tutko’s retirement in April 2010 after 39 years in the department (19 as chief), Farrell was appointed acting chief while Marquis began the process to hire a permanent replacement.
Tutko, reached at his home Tuesday, praised Farrell as a very “capable” team player and well credentialed for the job.
“He will do a great job as chief,” Tutko said, adding that he believes Farrell fits in well with Marquis’ collaborative management style between town departments.
“He’s shown that he’s willing to work with others,” Tutko said. “He’s a problem solver.”
The two worked directly together for five years, said Tutko – first while he (Tutko) was a captain and Farrell a firefighter in his unit, then again when Tutko promoted Farrell to deputy chief.
Tutko noted it wasn’t long after that the CAI and Arnel Inc. factory in Danversport exploded on Nov. 22, 2006, and Farrell was in the thick of it at the scene. He was placed in charge of operations, coordinating much of the behind-the-scenes efforts, scheduling and working with state officials.
“Kevin is a good people person. I think the manager made a good choice,” Tutko said.
And Farrell does have his own laundry list of things he’d like to implement and/or improve in the department.
He noted that some of the policies, procedures and even firefighting technology and apparatus haven’t been updated in 20 years. He’d also like to add a fitness program for firefighters to decrease injuries in the line of duty and promote healthy lifestyles. Another community service might be offering CPR training programs or other safety classes.
“It’s not going to all happen overnight,” Farrell said, adding it will take a lot of “baby steps” to get there.
He also believes the department needs to do more self-promotion.
“We need to start selling ourselves more,” Farrell said, arguing that many residents probably are unaware of the extent of services the Fire Department performs – everything from actually fighting fires and responding to car crashes to conducting fire and safety inspections, overseeing storage of hazardous materials, helping install child car seats and answering random questions from residents.
Farrell said just recently a man came into the station with his cell phone and asked Farrell if he could figure out what was wrong with it.
“It’s always, when you can’t figure out what to do, go to the Fire Department,” Farrell said, chuckling.
Farrell, a 1981 graduate of Danvers High School, has a bachelor’s degree in fire science from Ana Maria College and an associate’s degree in the same from North Shore Community College. He is also certified as a hazardous materials technician.
A formal ceremony at Town Hall to officially swear Farrell in to the new post won’t be held for at least another month or two.
Farrell, who has two sons (23 and 15) and a daughter (22), said he’d like to wait until his eldest son is home later this spring or summer. His father passed away in 2005, but his mother and sister still lives in town and his brother, Chuck Farrell, is a foreman in the Public Works Department.