Two years after the renewal of Deputy Fire Chief Art Reid's contract became the topic of public debate, Reid came before the Fire Commission on Wednesday night to make the case why the contract should be renewed again.
Reid's contract expires in April, and the Fire Commission, which held a special meeting on the issue Wednesday night, must let Reid know by March 31 whether or not it will extend the agreement. That vote will be taken at the commission's March 13 meeting.
Two years ago, Reid's renewal was mired in controversy and two commissioners, Dr. Thomas Christy and Chairman Richard Popilowski, voted against the renewal. Popilowski has since resigned from the commission after he participated in a United Way pitch to firefighters for donations, held during a mandated training session. Popilowski works for the United Way.
Unlike two years ago, Reid's discussion with the commission was held in public session and began with Chairman Craig Van Steenbergen asking Reid to formally request reappointment as deputy chief, a position he has held for the last 11 years.
Reid noted that he had submitted his request to Van Steenbergen in writing, as had been requested. The three-page letter included a list of Reid's accomplishments during his tenure.
"I think I do possess a strong work ethic," Reid said. "I think my record shows this ... I've given this job 100 percent."
Among the accomplishments Reid cited was developing a wellness and fitness program for firefighters; initiating a replacement program for equipment; revising and updating the town's emergency management plan, and working with volunteers to create the town's Citizen Corps and CERT team.
Commission members had few questions for Reid. Commissioner Dorothea Brennan asked Reid what he would do specifically to help advance the department's vision.
"My vision is to enhance the department," Reid said. "I don't envision major changes to the department, to the equipment. I think we're going in the proper direction. I see this as a continuation of what we're doing."
Reid said Fairfield has a reputation as being one of the best fire departments in the state. "My goal is to continue that," he said.
In response to Van Steenbergen, Reid said one thing of which he is most proud is creating the wellness program, which includes annual physicals for firefighters, which was not done previously.
"We worked closely with the union, and when we instituted the physicals, we detected two major illnesses and probably saved their lives and saved the town money," Reid said.
He also talked about applying for and receiving a Federal Emergency Management Act grant in his second year on the job that enabled the department to replace 45 percent of the firefighters' turnout coats and marked the start of a planned replacement program.
"I know I have to stand up here and sell myself," Reid said, "but most of what is done here is not just done by myself. We have very competent people below me that are helping."