SOUTHINGTON — The fire commission could pick a fire chief at its meeting this week.
The town has been without a permanent chief for more than a year. It’s also facing the imminent retirement of Assistant Chief and Fire Marshal Thomas Russell Wisner, according to Board of Fire Commission members. He’s been acting chief, the second since Harold “Buddy” Clark retired in February 2017.
Chris Robertson, a fire commission member, said interviews and testing last week went well.
“The process is definitely moving on in a very good direction,” he said.
The commission plans to meet Tuesday to discuss candidates. Robertson said the meeting will likely end with the commission selecting a chief.
John Moise, a fire commission member, said an offer has been made to one candidate, but the commission is waiting on a background check.
“With everything that’s gone on over the past year and a half at the fire department, we want to make sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed,” Moise said.
Municipal Resources Inc. of New Hampshire has been overseeing the search. One of the finalists is from Connecticut and the other three are from other parts of the Northeast.
The job requirements included experience with volunteer and career firefighters.
An earlier effort to find a permanent chief failed when the commission decided the finalists didn't have the necessary qualifications. After that, the town hired Municipal Resources. In January, the Town Council allowed the fire department to move $25,000 from the salary line item to pay for the search consultant.
Robertson hopes Wisner will remain with the department after the next chief starts, but understood he is ready to retire.
“The next two months are going to be critical at the fire department,” Robertson said.
Moise said the commission intends to offer the deputy chief and fire marshal position to internal candidates first. He wants to have the new chief help with the decision.
“We’re waiting for the new chief. We want him to have input on that at this point,” Moise said.
Wisner didn’t return a call for comment Friday.