A three-month search could come to an end with a new fire chief in place in Buxton as early as Monday.

Selectmen were expected to name a new chief at their meeting Wednesday, after the American Journal’s deadline. Selectmen declined to announce the candidate’s name prior to the meeting because they were still awaiting the results of routine physical and psychological exams.

Selectman Bob Libby said he expects the new chief to start Monday, replacing Larry Straffin who resigned in May.

The candidate is from southern Maine and has more than 30 years of firefighting experience, including several years as a fire chief, said Jean Harmon, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen.

“I’m quite confident with him, and we liked the overall package,” Harmon said. “He’s knowledgeable and has a good sense of Buxton.”

An eight-member search committee reviewed 30 applicants, including one from California, before narrowing the search to the final two candidates in late July. The new chief will earn $50,000 per year.

Both candidates worked half days the week of July 28, and the interview committee discussed their qualifications during an Aug. 4 executive workshop, before choosing a finalist.

The selectmen offered the job to the proposed new chief that same week and are awaiting the final test results.

“I think we had two excellent choices, and I could’ve gone either way,” Libby said.

The new chief will replace Straffin, whom the selectmen approved the resignation of one month prior to the end of his six-month probationary period. Straffin replaced Jim Graves, who worked with the town for less than a year. Graves replaced Jeff Grinnell, who had been with the town for seven years.

Harmon said the committee is confident the new chief will be around for an extended tenure, which was something selectmen considered during the hiring process, she said.

“When you have personnel turn over, it’s important to the fire department that they have a leader,” she said. “It’s important to have that continuity.”

In the interim, firefighter Andy Townsend and Deputy Chief Greg Jones have served as acting chiefs during the search process.

“I think they’ve done a good job of keeping the department together,” Libby said. “It was important to have that experience in the interim to keep the services going.”

Both Townsend and Jones, along with former Scarborough Fire Chief Bob Carson, were on the search committee. Their experience and efforts during the process were “invaluable,” Harmon said.

“I’m not a firefighter, and I don’t have the knowledge or experience that they have to know if the correct answers are being given,” Harmon said during a July 28 interview. “It’s very nice to have their input.”

When the town hired Straffin, it received only 11 applicants. Libby said previously that he couldn’t explain why the interest was so high. “We are a desirable community, and I hope that’s the reason why,” he said.

Straffin’s resignation preceded Police Chief Jody Thomas’ July 2 resignation. Thomas was on the job for 16 years and stayed with the town through Buxton Community Day on July 19. Her official final day was on July 20.

Her resignation prompted some community concern as to why several top administrators resigned rapidly. Neither Thomas’ nor Straffin’s resignation letters, nor the selectmen, gave a reason for their departures. However, Buxton Selectman Dan Collomy told the American Jouranl the day after Thomas’ resignation that the whole thing was a “sticky mess,” though he said he could not elaborate because personnel issues are confidential.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: