Three Fire Chief Finalists Make Their Cases in Westminster

September 18, 2018

Lynnfield Fire Chief Mark Tetreault interviews for the fire chief position with selectmen Monday night.

By Mina Corpuz


WESTMINSTER --The three finalists to become fire chief interviewed Monday evening with the Board of Selectmen.

Capt. Kyle Butterfield, who is serving as the town’s acting chief, Senior Fire Capt. Timothy Johnston of the Ayer Fire Department, and Lynnfield Fire Chief Mark Tetreault each interviewed for at least half an hour.

The board is expected to make a decision at its next meeting on Sept. 24.

Butterfield, a Westminster native, has been captain for four years and joined the department in 2000 during his senior year of high school as an on-call firefighter. He is also certified as a paramedic.

“If you look at my resume, I’ve set myself up to go through the ranks,” Butterfield told the board.

His management style would include clear communication, consistent goals, and work with the town administrator and selectmen.

Butterfield’s first priority as chief would be to do an evaluation of the department’s strengths and weaknesses to find opportunities for growth. That would also guide if he wants to make any changes.

He wants to make the department a part of the community, which includes meeting residents at town events and reaching out to people who may want to join the fire department.

“This is my community and I am a part of it,” Butterfield.

Through outreach, he hopes that when people call in for help, it isn’t their first interaction with firefighters.

Johnston began his career more than 30 years ago and has been a captain in Ayer since 2001. Many of his family members were firefighters and his father, Peter, served as the town’s deputy fire chief.

He emphasized his leadership, strong values and ethics, and consistency.

“I like to not only set the example, but be the example,” Johnston said.

His experience also includes going through budgeting and capital planning to get more equipment.

When managing operations on scene, Johnston said his style is bureaucratic. To work with department heads, he looks to keep in contact via email or cellphone and to work together.

Johnston said his priority as chief would be to get to know the department right away because a situation can happen at any time. Next would be to look at recruiting more on call firefighters and look at full-time staffing.

He is passionate about department training and said it can help with mentorship and succession planning. He is one of two who runs training at the Ayer Fire Department.

Tetreault has been chief in Lynnfield since 2014. He started his career as a firefighter in New Hampshire, worked in fire prevention, and served as the first career chief of the Barnstead Fire Department.

As someone who has been brought in to help departments, Tetreault said it would be refreshing to join a department that is well-run.

He considers himself a participatory leader and seeks to get input from all members of the department and empower staff members.

“I look at myself as a member of the team,” Tetreault said, adding that that outlook extends to work with department heads, the town administrator, and the board.

Training all staff the same way -- whether they are full-time or on-call firefighters -- ensures that the department can work together, he said.

“A firefighter is a firefighter is a firefighter,” Tetreault said. “The fire doesn’t care if you’re a career a call.”

When asked about a stressful moment in his fire career, he talked about how a lieutenant who promoted passed away at the age of 30.

Tetreault said it was difficult to attend the service and give the man’s helmet to his mother. As chief he was there to provide support and help the department heal.

Selectmen asked the finalists questions covering training, department management, budgeting, and working with the town administrator and board.

There were also several hypothetical situations, including what they would do if a member of the department posted something inappropriate on social media or if a full-time firefighter were arrested for driving under the influence.

Several members of the Westminster fire and police departments were in attendance for the interviews.

The search for a new chief began after Nivala retired in May after serving 31 years.

Selectmen put together a search committee that reviewed about 20 applications for the position. From that pool, the search committee interviewed five as semifinalists.

Follow Mina on Twitter @mlcorpuz.

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