Familiar face: Jerry Myers takes over fire department

Ridgefield is staying “inside” for its new fire chief — the job will go to 36-year department veteran Jerry Myers.

Myers was chosen for promotion from acting chief to chief of the Ridgefield Fire Department by a unanimous vote of the town Fire Commission — made up of the members of the Board of Selectmen — Wednesday, May 24.

“Pretty excited,” Myers said when asked how he felt after the vote. “A little relieved.”

Under the town charter, he won’t actually become chief until the board meets again, as the selectmen, and votes to accept the Fire Commission’s recommendation and appoint him as chief. First Selectman Rudy Marconi said he expects that vote take place at the selectmen’s June 7 meeting.

The appointment process is a little moot, since Myers has been acting chief for six months following the retirement of former chief Kevin Tappe.

Two days after the Fire Commission vote, on Friday, Myers said he sees the department as moving into a time when its mission is getting increasingly complex.

“We have to look at — the world’s changing, right? — and we say we’re the fire department but we’re really the ‘all hazards’ department. If something happens in Ridgefield, between us and the police, that’s who’s going to handle what comes up,” Myers said.

“We have to be prepared to handle not just fires and heart attacks but everything.”

As the department’s leader, he has a lot to think about.

“If medicine is changing, how is that going to affect our ambulance service? If buildings are changing, and building materials are changing, how is that going to affect our ability to fight fires? he said.

“Should we be reorganizing? Should we be changing the kind of equipment we have? Those are all questions we’re going to be looking at as we move forward.”

The fire commission’s May 24 vote followed an executive session interview of Myers that lasted about an hour. The motion was made by Selectwoman Barbara Manners after a return to public session.

“I would happily make a motion that the Fire Commission recommend to the Board of Selectmen that they appoint Jerry Myers as fire chief of the Ridgefield Fire Department,” she said.

The motion was seconded by Selectman Bob Hebert.

Five members of the fire department waited in the hall through the long executive session and offered Myers their congratulations after the meeting.

Does Myers have any goals or priorities he’ll be working on as the new chief?

“Update our policies and procedures,” he said.

It will be a collaborative effort with the department’s other officers and firefighters.

“This is something we started when I took over a few months ago and I’ve been slowly working through,” he said.

Still learning

Myers said he’ll celebrate 37 years with the Ridgefield Fire Department in August. He became assistant chief in June 2014, and has served as the department’s ambulance supervisor for about 25 years.

He grew up in Ridgefield, graduating from Ridgefield High School with the Class of 1977.

Myers attended Norwalk Community College for paramedic training. He returned to college there after becoming assistant chief, and said he’s within three classes of an associate’s degree in fire science.

“I went back to school, 57 years old — thought that was a good idea,” he said, smiling.

Myers lives in Brookfield with his wife, Sue, and their two children.

Due diligence

Marconi said the selectmen had previously reviewed résumés from the 10 other applications for the position.

“We did our due diligence,” he said.

Myers was the only candidate the Fire Commission interviewed in person.

According to town Human Resources Director Laurie Fernandez, the salary for the chief’s position has yet to be determined.

As acting chief, Myers’ salary was $96,447 a year. The previous fire chief was making $109,600.

After Myers is officially made the new chief, town officials aren’t sure whether they’ll refill his old position as assistant chief, or distribute those duties among the department’s shift commanders, captains and lieutenants.

“We have not yet decided if or when we are filling the assistant position,” Fernandez said.