Deering picks new fire chief
By unanimous vote, selectmen chose Jesse Kelley to lead the on-call fire department of about 25 members, said Town Administrator Craig Ohlson.
"The Fire Department had a campaign for someone else, but the intention was to hire the most qualified individual," Ohlson said.
Former Fire Chief Andy Anderson resigned from his post in January, and Lt. Jim Tramontozzi was named interim chief of the department.
At a April 3 meeting, a committee was formed to select the next permanent chief, but selectmen voted to disband it after receiving complaints about its members having personal connections with candidates, including one from Tramontozzi, who requested that Road Agent Peter Beard be removed from the committee.
At that same meeting, in a letter to selectmen, Fire Captain Doug Connor recommended that Tramontozzi be appointed permanent Fire Chief.
Fire Lt. Stephen Brooks also appeared at the meeting and read a letter to selectmen, which stated Brooks had made formal complaints to his chain of command at the department that were never addressed.
Brooks also referenced Connor's letter of support for Tramontozzi, and said those who signed it did so under pressure from Connor.
Several letters were received by selectmen indicating that was not the case.
Ohlson acknowledged the friction within the department.
"There has been controversy at the Fire Department, but (Selectmen) went with who was the most qualified candidate," he said.
In a prepared statement, Selectmen commented on the selection of the chief.
"The Board of Selectman understands the importance of the role of Fire Chief to the Fire Department and the Deering community. They were very impressed with every applicant. While the Board recognized each would make a fine Fire Chief, through its unanimous selection, the Board clearly identified Mr. Kelley as the most qualified candidate."
Kelley currently serves full-time as a firefighter and EMT at the Pease Air Force base for Pease Fire & Emergency Services in Newington, as a Captain of the Hillsboro Fire Department and as a state/staff instructor for the New Hampshire Fire Academy.
His credentials include Fire Fighter III, Fire Instructor III, and EMT-B. Additionally, he has an Associate's degree in Fire Science, a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration, and is working on a Master's degree in Occupational Safety and Health.
He resides in Hillsborough.