PLYMPTON– Wednesday evening, after selectmen grilled two finalists, Stephen G. Silva, of Pope’s Farm, was chosen the next Plympton Fire Chief, subject to successful contract negotiations.
Silva bested Wareham Assistant Fire Chief John G. Kelley, of Wareham, for the appointment.
Silva has more than 40 years experience in fire and EMS services. He is currently a Lieutenant Firefighter/Paramedic “shift-commander” at the Middleboro Fire Department, where he has worked since 2002.
His resumé is, in his own words, unusual, and it is extensive. He has business experience as well as firefighting and paramedic experience. His varied past includes founding the second largest ambulance service in the City of Brockton, Exodus Medical Transportation, and working as a flight paramedic.
Silva is an adjunct faculty member at Massasoit Community College, and works on tactical rescue teams as well.
He comes highly recommended by the fire chiefs of Whitman (who is the president of the Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts), Duxbury, the retired chief of Middleboro, the retired chief of Kingston, and the deputy chief of Hanson, among other fire officials.
Silva spoke easily as he answered questions from the board. He would not address the history of the troubled department, which he said had been discussed, “ad nauseum.”
He spoke of the sense of community in Plympton, and said, “I want to be a part of that and I want to lead that.”
Selectmen Chairman John Traynor asked him, “Should we continue to rely on call firefighters?”
Silva responded, “The setup is now working…I think we’re in really good shape.”
He also had a strong opinion on whether or not all call firefighters should be EMTs. “Not everyone wants to do medical,” and retaining employees, especially call firefighters, is a challenge.
He said he did not have much experience with municipal budgets, an admitted weakness, but said, “I have experience with budgets,” citing his private-sector experience.
Selectman Mark Russo asked, “What frustrates you?”
“Complaints without solutions frustrate me, but they can be a useable tool,” said Silva.
Selectman Christine Joy wanted to know how Silva would rebuild other towns’ confidence in mutual-aid from Plympton.
“That’s a very challenging job,” he said. But he mentioned that he had the support of the local chiefs around him. He also pointed out that they would help him with grant-opportunities, which he does not have much experience in.
The interview process was weeks long and exhaustive. More than a dozen candidates were narrowed down to these two. There were practical and exam portions of the interview.
Kelley also had a well-rounded background, in both the public and private sector. The board did not give a reason for their selection when they came out of their executive session to make the announcement.
The Plympton Fire Department has been under scrutiny for several years.
A document prepared by an outside analyst, the MRI report, described “a department in crisis.” The last fire chief of any significant tenure, Warren Borsari, did not have his contract renewed and was put on administrative leave last March.
Last May, acting chief Philip Curran was, “separated from employment with the town.” There has been an unusual amount of turnover in the department.
Captain Cheryl Davis and Captain John Sjostedt lead the Fire Department on a day-to-day basis under the leadership of Chief Lance Benjamino of the Middleboro Fire Department, who says he will remain in place until Silva is sworn-in.
Elizabeth Dennehy, Town Administrator, said the negotiation phase of the hiring should take a few weeks.
“If I am chief this will be a well-run department…a fun and professional place to work,” Silva said. Should all go well with contract negotiations, it looks like he’ll be chief. “This is the culmination of a career,” he said.