WESTFIELD TWP. — After more than a year without a permanent, full-time leader, a retired fire chief from Mason is coming on board to head Westfield Fire and Rescue.
Richard Fletcher, 56, was among 18 applicants who responded to the Westfield Fire Association’s advertisement for a chief in firefighting trade magazines, township trustee Jim Likley said.
Fletcher, who retired in December 2007 as chief in Mason, assumes his duties on Monday. He will make approximately $52,000 per year.
“We had applicants from all over the state,” Likley said. “We were trying to find the best qualified person to come to the department and take over its operations, and I believe we got that in Mr. Fletcher.”
The association also worked with the Ohio Fire Chief’s Association, a panel of fire chiefs from across the state, in the hiring process. The association pared down the candidates to two and each went to the OFCA Assessment Center for a four-hour “scenario” test, Likley said.
“Mr. Fletcher scored very well and was the candidate of choice,” Likley said.
Fletcher replaces Jack Snoddy, who resigned in April 2009. Soon thereafter, the department was staffed for a few months with part-time firefighters in lieu of a full-time chief.
However, township trustees and Westfield Center Village Council decided to continue with a full-time chief. After interim chief Mike Carson resigned in February, Capt. Mark Williams stepped in to head the department until a chief was found, Likley said.
“It was a consensus of trustees and Council that a ful-l-time chief was hired,” he said. “The chief is like the CEO of a company; he has direct leadership that gives the department direction not only for today but for the future.”
Westfield Fire and Rescue serves the township and Westfield Center.
Fletcher said he is familiar with rural and suburban fire departments. For more than 20 years he was a firefighter for the city of Norwood, which is north of Cincinnati.
“It was rural when we first moved out there, only about 11,000 people,” Fletcher said. “Since then, it’s grown to a 30,000-resident city, so I’ve seen a lot of changes in the area.”
Fletcher is married to Vickie, his wife of 30 years, and they have three grown children. He and Vickie are shopping for a house in the area and will stay with a relative in Akron until they find one, he said.
After retiring from the Mason department in southwest Ohio, Fletcher worked part time with the Hamilton Township Fire Department to keep up his certification.
He said within “two days” of retiring he missed his job, and a family trip to South Carolina not long thereafter confirmed he was not finished with emergency services. While driving, he witnessed a car clip a tractor-trailer and flip over several times before colliding with a guardrail. He stopped and jumped out of his own car to help. Although the driver was all right, he said it reignited his desire to be a public servant.
“I looked at my wife and said, ‘I don’t really think I’m done with … being a public servant and in emergency services,’ ” he said.
As for Westfield Fire and Rescue, Fletcher said he is looking forward to working with trustees, Council and staff to “identify the needs and wants” of the department and the community.
“I could really tell that the members of the department are really enthusiastic and eager to move on to the next phase,” Fletcher said.
Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or email@example.com.
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