Hatfield Select Board chooses Robert Flaherty Jr. as new fire chief

  • Incoming Hatfield Fire Chief Robert J. Flaherty Jr., right, is seen with with retired Northampton Fire Chief Brian Duggan in 2013. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/30/2020 11:45:01 PM

HATFIELD — Robert J. Flaherty Jr., deputy chief for the Hatfield Fire Department and a town firefighter for the past 18 years, is the choice of the Select Board to be the department’s next chief.

The board voted 2-0 this week to offer the position to Flaherty, a Hatfield resident, to succeed Stephen P. Gaughan, who has led the 25-member department for four years and announced in September he intends to step down.

The choice of Flaherty for chief comes following public interviews with him and William Choate, a senior lieutenant for the West Bridgewater Fire Department.

“I’m confident with the selection of Bob to take over the chief’s position for Hatfield,” Select Board Chairman Brian Moriarty said in a phone interview Thursday.

Moriarty was joined in voting for Flaherty by Edmund Jaworski, while Diana Szynal opted not to participate in the vote, in part due to having a relative on the firefighting force.

Moriarty said the board is entering contract negotiations with Flaherty that, if successful, would allow him to start in the new role sometime in February.

Like Gaughan, a full-time captain for the Amherst Fire Department, Flaherty has been a full-time firefighter/paramedic in Amherst for just over 10 years and would remain in that position while adding the fire chief job.

Due to his work commitments, Flaherty wasn’t immediately available Thursday to talk about his selection.

In his interview with the board this week, though, Flaherty said he would “build on the previous couple of chiefs we’ve had and see if we can move the department forward even more.”

The fire chief screening committee, established by the Select Board last fall, brought four people forward for interviews, but two dropped out.

That committee was made up of Hatfield Police Chief Michael Dekoschak, Hadley Fire Chief Michael Spanknebel, Hatfield Fire Lt. Luke Longstreeth and residents David Keir and Chris Hoffman.

Gaughan will remain in his role until the transition to Flaherty’s leadership takes place.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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