PORTLAND, Maine — Nearly 11 months after the previous fire chief announced plans to retire, Portland City Manager Mark Rees said Tuesday that decorated Maryland fire and rescue professional Jerome LaMoria has been chosen as the next fire chief for Maine’s largest city.
In August, after a nationwide search drew 55 applicants and five finalists, the city was turned down by its top choice at the time to lead the department and was forced to reopen the process.
LaMoria, who is expected to start work for the city on Jan. 3, 2013, becomes the permanent replacement for Frederick LaMontagne, who announced plans to retire in January of this year after 27 years with the Portland Fire Department. LaMontagne officially stepped down in April and Deputy Fire Chief Stephen Smith has been filling the position on an interim basis since then.
LaMoria will be the latest new face in a city that has experienced unprecedented turnover during the past 18 months. Since Rees started as Portland’s new city manager in July of 2011, the city has either replaced or is still searching to replace its fire chief, superintendent of schools, police chief, mayor, director of planning, attorney and deputy city manager.
LaMoria comes to Portland by way of Maryland, where he most recently served as the training and exercise coordinator for the Prince George’s County Office of Homeland Security. He previously spent 25 years with the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department, including a stint as acting deputy fire chief of emergency operations.
The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department includes 765 full-time firefighters and emergency responders, nearly 1,000 volunteer responders, and an annual budget of about $130 million, according to an announcement issued by the city of Portland Tuesday. The Maryland department responds to an average of 130,000 incidents annually, operates more than 40 community fire stations, and serves a diverse population of more than 800,000, the city announcement continued.
“LaMoria’s experience and understanding of emergency management, firefighting and medical services make him the right choice to lead the city’s fire department and I am excited to officially welcome him to Portland,” said Rees in a Tuesday statement. “I am confident that he will be able to help the department continue its progress toward building an efficient, effective organization that is able to respond, react and adjust quickly to any emergency, ensuring the safety of our residents and always doing so with kindness and respect for members of our community during very difficult circumstances.”
LaMoria was awarded the Maryland State Active Duty Medal for his efforts in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, when he led a team of 250 medical volunteers restoring public health services in Jefferson Parish, La., according to Tuesday’s announcement.