SOUTHINGTON – Assistant Fire Chief James Paul will serve as interim fire chief starting Nov. 1.
Fire Chief Richard Butler is retiring on Oct. 31. Paul was appointed assistant chief two years ago.
Nathan Wilson, Board of Fire Commissioners chairman, said Paul has done a great job in his twin roles as assistant chief and fire marshal.
“I wish you the best of luck, we’re in good hands,” he said.
The commission unanimously approved Paul’s temporary promotion Thursday night. It also voted to form a search committee for the next chief, a group that’ll include town and fire officials.
Municipal Resources Inc, a consulting firm, will conduct the nationwide search and bring finalists to the search committee. It’s the same company and process used in Butler’s hiring two years ago. Fire officials expect to have a chief selected in January.
Butler replaced Harold "Buddy" Clark in 2018. He worked as a battalion commander with the Annapolis, Maryland Fire Department before coming to Southington. His former department included both paid and volunteer firefighters, experience that helped him land Southington job.
During the fire board’s meeting Thursday evening, members praised Butler’s contributions.
“Chief came to us two years ago with a department that was extremely dysfunctional” said board member Michael Bunko, chairman during Butler’s hiring. He said Butler leaves the Southington Fire Department a “much stronger organization.”
Wilson said the board and Butler have had many successes over the past two years.
“You’re going to be greatly missed by me and many others here,” Wilson said.
Butler said he’s retiring to spend more time with family. He’s moved the department as far as he could move it forward, Butler said, and now it was time for someone else to continue in leadership.
“We have outstanding people here,” he said. “I see good things for the organization in the future.”
Butler said Paul was a good choice for interim chief.
“He’ll do an outstanding job. He’ll get the support of all the members of the department,” Butler said.