ORONO, Maine — A lifelong Orono resident with 22 years of experience in the town’s fire department has taken the helm as the department’s new chief, Town Manager Sophie Wilson announced Monday.
Robert St. Louis sat behind his new desk for the first time Monday.
“It’s a privilege and an honor to be selected to be the leader of this department, being from this community and knowing so many people at the University of Maine and in the town,” St. Louis said.
St. Louis joined the department in 1990, a year after graduating from Orono High School, eventually working his way through the ranks from an on-call firefighter to lieutenant.
St. Louis’ family has a history in the department.
“I have had several relatives that have been members of the fire department in Orono; a grandfather and an uncle, who also was a fire chief in the department,” St. Louis said.
“I was the typical young boy that used to chase the firetrucks around, and it was just something that I always wanted to be,” said the chief, who also works part time as a baseball umpire.
Wilson said about 15 people applied for the position, with most applications coming from away and a few coming in from the area. Wilson said St. Louis’ experience and familiarity with the department played a significant part in his selection.
“Currently, we have very well-trained firefighters, hazardous material technicians and paramedics,” St. Louis said. “The service we provide is very high quality and we want to continue that.”
The new chief said he would like to increase the fire department’s involvement with the community by continuing to build its inspection, fire prevention and educational programs.
“You have the ability to put your ideas out there and make the department a better place for the people that work for you so they enjoy coming to work every day,” St. Louis said.
“He’s a team player,” Wilson said. “He is able to build strong relationships with diverse groups of people. He’ll continue to be an asset to the town and I’m looking forward to seeing what direction Rob wants to take the department.”
Wilson said Monday that she was in the process of executing the three-year contract, which sets St. Louis’ salary at $63,500 for his first year on the job.
The town terminated the contract of former Fire Chief Norman “ Buddy ” Webb in June.
Wilson said at the time that the town terminated Webb’s contract “pursuant to mutually agreed upon contract provisions.” She declined to elaborate on why the contract, which was scheduled to expire in December, was terminated early.
Webb, 66, filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission days later, claiming he was fired because of age and his plans to have surgery on both knees later in the year. Webb’s attorney said in June that he expects the commission to make a decision by December.