WOONSOCKET – Deputy Chief Timothy Walsh of the Woonsocket Fire Department will succeed retiring Chief Gary Lataille on an interim basis after the chief retires at the end of the week.
Walsh will assume the title of acting chief of the WFD on Sunday, said Mayor Leo T. Fontaine.
“This is a temporary, interim appointment,” said Fontaine. “This will give us time to go through a full search and appointment process.”
Fontaine said he isn’t looking outside the department for the next chief. He said there are 14 potential candidates for the permanent appointment – or the combined pool of deputy chiefs and captains on the fire department, including Walsh.
Walsh, 49, has been employed by the Woonsocket Fire Department since June 1986, according to the personnel department. City officials said he also has a part time hospital-based job as a nurse practitioner.
Walsh is a certified paramedic and currently serves as president of the Woonsocket Fire Fighters Relief Association, said Capt. Michael Morin, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 737.
Fontaine also described him as a “co-director” of the Woonsocket Emergency Management Agency. Lataille is the director of the agency, which runs disaster-preparedness and relief protocols for the city.
Walsh was appointed by him last week in his capacity as public safety director, the mayor said. There was no public announcement but a memo was circulated internally.
Fontaine said that before he chooses Lataille’s permanent successor, a formal application process will be developed so there is a level playing field on which to evaluate potential candidates for fire chief. The job currently pays about $82,000 a year.
He said he is working with Lataille to develop a questionnaire that will become part of the application process. He said the process will be modeled after that which led to the appointment of Police Chief Thomas Carey, a veteran of the St. Petersburg, Fla., police who is approaching his fifth anniversary as chief of the Woonsocket Police Department next month – longer than any police chief in many years.
Lataille has been employed by the fire department 28 years and has served as its chief since March 2009. The 49-year-old fire chief announced his retirement unexpectedly several weeks ago, calling it a personal decision. Lataille says he hopes to embark on second career in management, capitalizing on his skills in public safety, after taking a little time off.
The personnel shuffle comes amid continuing negotiations with the IAFF and the Budget Commission, which is attempting to secure contractual concessions from the union as a part of a plan to stave off municipal bankruptcy. Once again, the commission tabled a measure imposing concessions on the union as negotiations remained alive on Monday afternoon.
Morin, the union president, said another collective bargaining session with the union was scheduled for today.
Efforts to reach Walsh for comment on this story Monday were not successful.
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