1 week before decision, 3 finalists for Granby fire chief interview with Select Board

  • John E. Mitchell Jr.

  • David B. Hutchinson

  • James A. Cleveland Jr.

@mjmajchrowicz
Published: 1/14/2017 12:19:36 AM

GRANBY — One week ahead of public deliberations to determine the next fire chief, the three finalists still in the running appeared before the Select Board Friday evening for individual public interviews, where they had the opportunity to articulate their respective visions for the department and their roles in the community.

A new chief is expected to be hired within a week or so. Russell Anderson left the post in March 2016, having served for 10 years. The Granby Chief Search Committee received 12 applications for the position and planned to interviewed five. Three candidates, who were the candidates interviewed Friday, were named finalists.

John E. Mitchell Jr.

Mitchell, who serves as fire chief at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield and oversees the day-to-day operations of a firefighting crew comprising roughly 60 people, was interviewed first and told the board about the time he spent getting to know the community.

“I spent many days driving around and learning,” Mitchell said. “As fire chief, I want to ensure my firefighters are prepared and ready … and are safe in doing so.”

Mitchell added that he was a proponent of carrying out risk assessments at various spots in the community — areas that may innately be more prone to dangerous situations such as quarries — and devising pre-incident action plans.

“Taking the time to assess those needs … and creating these pre-incident plans is really the key,” he said.

Mitchell previously worked as an airport firefighter, police officer and training officer in his tenure at Worcester Regional Airport.

“I think that as a fire department and as a fire service, we’re doing a really great job of getting out to the community,” he said.

David B. Hutchinson

Hutchinson works in Landstuhl and Dresden, Germany, where he is the CEO of the International Firefighters EHH as well as fire chief and senior consultant for the Oil and Gas and Municipal Fire Division of Strategic Fire Solutions.

Hutchinson said he has family based in Rockland and that he is planning to relocate to western Massachusetts from Germany.

The candidate talked about his experience as a fire captain for three years in a combat region in Baghdad, and how he worked with fire organizations in the Middle East to transition from paper filing systems to electronic ones.

Hutchinson also emphasized community engagement — regularly appearing in well-populated areas throughout the town and conversing with residents to hear and respond to their concerns and ideas.

“If you need to take a half hour out of your day to do that, that’s a half hour that’s worthwhile,” Hutchinson said. “Because, otherwise, you’re never going to hear their concerns … you need to be a good listener, an active listener.”

In closing, Hutchinson reflected on his experience managing “three large fire departments,” adding that the groups he worked with were “diverse and challenging.”

“I think I have a lot to bring to this town,” he said.

James A. Cleveland Jr.

In his interview, Cleveland, from Loving, New Mexico, where he is the deputy fire service director as well as a paramedic for the Eddy County Fire Service in Carlsbad, placed a heavy emphasis on training. In his current role, he’s responsible for 11 volunteer fire districts as well as Eddy County Search and Rescue.

“I think the biggest thing is having decent, working policies,” Cleveland said in his interview.

In taking the time to assess some of Granby’s procedures, he said, “I’m pretty sure that piece is in line. I think the other one is training — the easiest way to eliminate liability … is to have well-trained firefighters and EMTs.”

When it comes to resolving personality conflicts on the job, Cleveland said “most personality conflicts are just hurt feelings … (and) most conflicts are (because of a) lack of communication.”

“If they listen with the intent to hear what they’re saying … invariably, you make it work,” he said.

The board asked Cleveland to identify his most profound challenge that he forecasts for himself if were to be named to the chief post.

“Coming from the outside, I have a learning curve,” he said. “Fortunately for me, I do a lot of reading … In New Mexico, there was a lot of learning.”

Michael Majchrowicz can be reached at mmajchrowicz@gazettenet.com.




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