The Oak Bluffs selectmen voted unanimously and enthusiastically to appoint acting fire chief John Rose as the permanent fire chief for the town, at their regular meeting on Tuesday.
“At one point last fall I was in full favor of posting the job and doing interviews,” said Walter Vail, chairman of the selectmen. “Since then, I’ve watched John in action, and I’m very proud of what he’s been doing and how hard he’s worked to get cohesiveness at the department. I’ve changed my mind. At this point I’m ready to say ‘John, you should be our fire chief.’”
Selectman Kathy Burton was also effusive in her praise. “Judging by the amount of training and the amount of fires that have been successfully battled, and the amount of people showing up for training, I think John is doing a great job,” she said.
“We’re all very lucky to have John working as our fire chief,” added selectman Gail Barmakian.
“I know Mike is 100 per cent in favor as well,” Mr. Vail said, referring to selectman Michael Santoro, who was out of town on family business.
The selectmen named Mr. Rose acting chief last May to replace former chief Peter Forend.
At the time, the department was in disarray and a highly critical consultant’s report, released in July, underscored deficiencies in the department.
In an interview with The Times on Tuesday, Mr. Rose said the support of town officials has been instrumental in the department turnaround.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support from the selectmen and from Bob [town administrator Robert Whritenour]. Since I became acting chief, there’s been at least one selectman at our all department meetings. That’s made a big difference. It really shows they’re behind us.”
When Mr. Rose was appointed acting chief, low morale was a problem in the department, according to the report. Mr. Rose said he has taken a more inclusive approach to improve the esprit de corps.
“We’re making everyone feel included,” he said. “It’s really important to listen to the concerns of the rank and file. Having more all department meetings and more drills has also built up the camaraderie.”
Chief Rose said that the new fire station will be a big boost to the department, and to the town. “The new station is going to be huge for us. In the current station, it’s hard to run a professional operation. There’s always new challenges. One week it’s a mice infestation, the next week mold is falling off the ceilings. The new station will allow us to do a better job for the town of Oak Bluffs.”
Mr. Rose is also the head of the EMS department. The two departments were merged last year pursuant to the recommendation of the consultants.