James Wilson served as South Portland Fire Chief for seven years, the department for a total of 26 years, and served Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough’s departments in other capacities. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

Outgoing South Portland Fire Chief James Wilson was praised at Tuesday’s City Council meeting for his leadership over the past seven years.

Wilson, who submitted his letter of resignation earlier this month, has been with the city’s fire department for 26 years. He also has been a volunteer firefighter in Cape Elizabeth and conducted marine rescue training at the Scarborough Fire Department.

The decision to leave is “bittersweet,” he told the council, “but it’s the right time to move on.”

Wilson has accepted a job as a fire specialist at Texas Instruments, which has a facility in South Portland. His last day as chief will be Feb. 3, and a search for his replacement is underway.

“It’s been a great run. I love the fire service … my father and grandfather were in the fire service. I grew up riding around on fire trucks,” Wilson said. “For a while, I thought I was going to go into some other line of work and I did not. It brought me right back this way and it’s been a wonderful career.”

South Portland Fire Chief James Wilson speaks at a ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opening the Cash Corner Fire Station in 2021. Forecaster file photo

City staff and councilors said Wilson was a strong leader for the department, especially during the pandemic when he advocated for the creation of a community outreach program to provide services for asylum seekers and other unhoused people. Among other accomplishments, they also cited his help in planning for the construction of the Cash Corner Fire Station.


“Personally, I’ll miss him a great deal,” said City Manager Scott Morelli. “He’s done a lot of things for the department … I’ve only been here for just under six years of the chief’s career, and even during that short time, seeing the things he’s been able to accomplish for his crew, for the city, is just really commendable.”

“We are very blessed to have a strong department that is rising to meet the needs of the city of South Portland,” said Mayor Katherine Lewis. “Being flexible and changing, adapting approaches as the city grows and changes around us. That’s because of your leadership in large part, I’m convinced, and we’re very grateful to you for all of your service here.”

While Wilson appreciated the praise, he did not hesitate to credit the department as a whole.

“I’m a little overwhelmed,” he said. “I will say, I don’t feel that I can claim this all on my own. We have an excellent team at the fire department. A lot of the achievements that we made, over certainly my time as chief, have been (due to) a lot of work by a lot of people.”

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