The new head of the Newburgh Volunteer Fire Department said he wants to work with the firefighters who resigned in protest this week over the town selectmen’s refusal to reinstate the former fire chief.
The entire department resigned Monday night at a meeting of the town selectmen, who turned down a list of demands from the 11 firefighters — including the rehiring of former Chief Glen Williamson.
“They’re a little chapped right now, but I’m assuming when things cool down they’ll come talk to me,” said Ralph Shaw, who was sworn in as Newburgh’s volunteer fire chief on Tuesday. “I know a lot of them so that is helping me some.”
“I’m going to try and meet with a few of them over the next week. I’m going to try to get some of the old ones back.”
The list of firefighters Shaw wants to return includes Williamson, who officially resigned in August after working for the department for more than 20 years, the last 10 as chief.
“I’ve known Glen and worked with him. I’d like to see that personally because he knows the department, the community and those kinds of things,” Shaw said. “You can’t beat his his experience. You are not going to find that [hiring someone] off the street.”
But Williamson said he’s unlikely to come back.
“There is not much chance I’m going to go back as a firefighter,” he said. “I think I’ve given enough to the town.”
Shaw, a married Hampden father of three who is also the Hermon Public Works supervisor and the assistant chief for Carmel Fire and Rescue Department, was among a handful of candidates who interviewed for the chief’s job, he said. He plans to keep all three jobs.
The town’s three selectmen met Monday to vote whether to reinstate Williamson, but rejected a list of three demands from firefighters, saying they “were limiting in having a workable relationship with the chief,” which resulted in the mass resignation.
The panel then endorsed Town Manager Cynthia Grant’s pick of Shaw as the new chief, Grant said Tuesday.
The firefighters had demanded that Williamson be reinstated, that he get his job back without having to apply for it, and that he be allowed to have a liaison, or witness, whenever he met with selectmen or the town manager, said former firefighter Scott Reglin, who spoke for the department at the meeting and was among those who quit in protest.
Williamson said Monday he earned $4,000 a year leading the volunteer department of 11 and had been working without pay as acting chief for the last eight months.
Shaw said his grandfather served 30 years as a firefighter in Corinna, and he started his career in Plymouth directly after high school. He worked his way up the ranks and was assistant chief for Plymouth for seven years and spent five as chief. He said he also worked for Newport, where he was a training officer, and has been the assistant chief in Carmel for about three years.
Shaw said he needs a handful of firefighters to begin to take calls in town again.
“Ultimately, I need five to 10 to be able to operate effectively, but I’d like to get back to 15 or better,” the new fire chief said. “You never have enough because the unit’s volunteer.”