McDonald officially named fire marshal

The town has settled on a new fire marshal to replace the retired Joseph Benoit and they didn’t have to look far, turning to the 25-year veteran who has had the job on an interim basis since February.

At a special Board of Selectmen meeting on Wednesday, James McDonald was appointed to the position by a unanimous vote. A formal swearing-in ceremony will take place in the near future but the promotion became official the moment the vote was recorded and Fire Marshal McDonald received a round of applause from the board as well as high praise from his chief.

“I think this is a home run for the community,” Fire Chief Peter Siecienski said, noting that when he went through the “code class” at the state fire marshal’s office, Fire Marshal McDonald was at the top of the class for the entire state.

The fire marshal is in charge of building inspections in town to make sure they’re up to safety standards, a job that means meticulous focus on detail as well as a chance to meet a lot of people desperate for approval who can become angry when they don’t get it.

“It’s very important that you have a strong working knowledge of the code,” Chief Siecienski said. “It is very difficult, especially with the life safety code as it applies to existing buildings and new construction. The workload never lessens. It just increases constantly. Having an individual who has great knowledge of the code along with a lot of compassion is very important. Jim is a very low key individual and not excitable and that will pay us back in spades when he has to deal with difficult situations where he has property owners and business owners yelling at him. That high level of compassion and patience will do us well. The community is really blessed to have an individual of this caliber.”

First Selectman Peter Tesei also offered his assessment of the new hire.

“We are truly fortunate to have someone of Jim’s caliber and his level of commitment to the community serve permanently in such a critical position for the town,” Mr. Tesei said.

During the brief meeting, which took approximately five minutes, Mr. Tesei said there was an “intensive promotional testing process” including a written exam from a professional testing expert as well as an oral evaluation from a panel of fire service professionals from other communities. Of all the candidates considered, Mr. Tesei said that Fire Marshal McDonald ranked highest.

Selectman David Theis wished Fire Marshal McDonald the best in this position and said that he hoped he would be in place for many years to come.

A town resident who has been with the Greenwich Fire Department since 1987, Fire Marshal McDonald was asked if he wanted to say anything, but he demurred other than thanking the selectmen and pledging “to do a good job for you.”

He did speak to the Post after, saying that he believed the role of the fire marshal was to protect the life safety of people in the town of Greenwich and that is a job he will take very seriously.

“You have to take your time, you have to be thorough and you have to be nice to people,” Fire Marshal McDonald said. “When you’re nice to people and explain to them why they have to do something they tend to respond much better. I try to be nice to people and I’ve always found that to be effective. I feel really good about this position. I’m glad the process is over and that now we can get down to work.”

Fire Marshal McDonald was accompanied to the meeting by his wife Lynne. Before taking on this interim role he served as the department’s deputy fire marshal. In addition he is secretary of the Local 1042 International Association of Firefighters AFL-CIO.


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