New Buxton fire chief Bruce E. Mullen began his tenure Monday ending a three-month search to fill the position.

The veteran with more than 30 years of experience as a firefighter comes from Dayton, where he spent nearly 20 years as the fire chief for Goodwin Mills, which covers Dayton and Lyman.

“This department impresses me,” Mullen said on Tuesday. “They’ve got some really good people.”

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

Mullen suffered a heart attack 13 years ago, but both he and the interview committee said that is not a concern since he passed the town required physical exam.

“I asked my cardiologist and showed him the job description for this job and he told me there wasn’t a doubt I could do this job,” Mullen said. If he had any reservations, I would’ve pulled my name immediately.”

Satisfied with the medical results, his no-nonsense approach impressed the board, Selectman Dan Collomy said.

“That was my first choice from day one,” Collomy said. “I liked his attitude, I liked his vitality, and he said when he comes to work it’s business and he’s not there to make friends. If he has to get tough, he will.”

Mullen was finalist for the position along with Scarborough Deputy Chief Wesley Merritt.

“We feel very confident,” Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Jean Harmon said. “At the end, we had two highly qualified candidates to choose from, but we just felt he was our No. 1 choice. He’s very familiar with the town and comfortable with the people.”

Mullen will replace Larry Straffin, who 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.

The recent turnover does not bother Mullen, he said.

“I’m not really concerned with that because what happens in the past stays in the past,” he said.

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

“When you have personnel turnover, 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,” Selectman Bob 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 Journal 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.

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