The Wellesley Select Board this week voted to appoint retired Weston Fire Chief David Soar as interim fire chief for a year while a search is conducted for a permanent Wellesley Fire Department chief. You can view and listen to the interviews beginning at about the 11-minute mark of the Wellesley Media recording (the interview & voting discussion last until just sort of the 2-hour mark).
The town of Wellesley has paused its search for a permanent fire chief to replace Rick DeLorie, who retired after 14 years as chief at the start of the year. Nat Brady, a 33-year veteran of the department, has been serving as interim chief. Town Executive Director Meghan Jop said earlier in the process that putting an interim chief in place for that long will give the town an opportunity to “really take a look and audit the department’s policies and procedures and operations and really work to mentor internal candidates.” There was a reference to righting the ship during this week’s candidate discussion, but it’s been unclear during public discussion precisely what sorts of issues need to be addressed in the department.
The Board, a consultant, and Executive Director Meghan Jop quizzed the two candidates this week during the meeting (Jop, Municipal Resources consultant Brian Duggan, and Police Chief Jack Pilecki had already interviewed the candidates during the whittling down process). The Board members asked the same questions to each candidate, including about their leadership and management style, desire for the job, community outreach plans, and ability to navigate tricky situations. Those asking the questions all agreed both candidates gave good answers and would be solid choices.
Soar had the experience advantage, having served as Weston’s chief from 2008-2022, and also has great familiarity with the area, having worked closely with Wellesley’s department throughout his career in Weston. Germain served on Portsmouth’s fire department since 1994, but only registered three years as chief before retiring in 2022.
During initial discussion on the candidates, Board Chair Lise Olney leaned toward Germain because he might bring fresher ideas by coming from a bigger force and different state. Beth Sullivan Woods favored Soar for his experience in working with a similar community, and for his ability to work collaboratively but to make decisions in a confident way. Tom Ulfelder was less concerned with new ideas out of the chute from an interim chief than with getting someone into the position who could get the department in shape for a permanent chief to take over.
Ann-Mara Lanza pondered what the Board was really looking for, a steady hand or an interim chief with perhaps a fresher perspective. She tended toward Germain, in part due to his attention to a need for mentorship in bringing the next generation of department firefighters and leaders forward. “Are we looking for a shift or a steadying, is how I see it,” she said.
Select Board member Colette Aufranc defined this as being one of the more difficult selection processes she’s been involved in considering the high quality of the candidates. She felt like Germain might be the better choice in part because the town’s young roster of firefighters might relate better to him.
So at that point, it looked like Germain might get the nod. During further discussion, Woods noted that the interim period of a year isn’t that long, and that Soar’s familiarity with the department and area would likely allow him to get up to speed more quickly than Germain. Olney elaborated on her choice of Germain in perhaps being better equipped to help the department become more state of the art. Lanza shifted her stance, taking to heart the idea that Soar might gain more immediate trust due to his familiarity with the environment. “I really think that it is important to get as much done as possible in that short period of time,” she said. Both Olney and Aufranc said they heard convincing arguments for Soar, and said they’d be comfortable with him as the Board’s choice.
The Board voted unanimously for Soar. He said he’d pretty much be available right away, though a start date will be determined pending contract negotiations.