VIDEO: Meet New Fire Chief John Wilson
A lifelong resident and LFD veteran, Wilson is a popular choice to lead the Lexington Fire Department.
Lexington looked far and wide, and twice over, before determining the candidate most qualified to become its next fire chief had been in the department all along.
It won’t be so difficult the next time around, according to John A. Wilson, the 27-year LFD veteran who was sworn in as chief on Wednesday, May 23.
“My replacement’s going to come from here,” said Wilson, a former fire captain. “There won’t even be a question.”
That’s not to say Wilson isn’t in it for the long haul, but rather that the lifelong Lexington resident plans to make professional development a priority.
“I have a long career left, but this is the start of a new career for me,” Wilson, 47, told Patch in an interview after accepting the job earlier this month. “I want to leave [the Lexington Fire Department] a better place than it is today. That’s my goal.”
From informal mentoring to ironing out the training conundrum to building a firm management staff, Wilson said he believes members of the department should be given responsibilities and rise to the occasion. In fact, he said he feels fire captains should have more input in areas like budgeting, capital needs and training.
Wilson emerged as the top choice for the job following a multi-step, nationwide recruitment process that included multiple requests for candidates. To be fair, Wilson didn’t apply the first time, and only threw his hat into the ring after kicking himself a few times and getting the go-ahead from his wife, Michele.
“I saw the need in the department and thought I could fill that need,” said Wilson, who has profusely thanked his family since accepting the position. “We know there will be challenges in my future, but that’s part of the job, and I think I can handle it.”
According to Town Manager Carl Valente, the hiring criteria sought a chief who can build a strong management team, establish a mentoring program to develop internal candidates for promotional opportunities and focus on developing a strong training program.
Many times since the announcement about Wilson being tapped to lead LFD the Board of Selectmen and Town Manager have said they’re pleased with the choice.
“John Wilson is a seasoned professional who understands the Lexington Fire Department and its critical role in the community,” Town Manager Carl Valente said in a statement. “He has shown effective leadership as he moved up through the ranks, he knows the needs of our community and he has a vision for the Fire Department.”
Getting even beyond familiarity with the current LFD lineup, Lexington roots have got to be an asset for the chief, particularly when it comes to navigating historical idiosyncrasies and local politics.
“I think that’s important for the department,” he said. “I know the issues, I know the politics, and I know the demographics. That’s something I feel strongly that I can bring to move the department forward.”
Interim Chief Keith Hoyle wholly endorsed Wilson, and lauded his local connections as part of the reason.
“John's appointment is an excellent choice,” Hoyle wrote in an email to Patch. “He is a lifelong Lexington resident who has a unique knowledge of the history and operations of the Lexington Fire Department. He has some ideas for improving the department and believes that providing quality public safety services to the citizens of Lexington is Job 1.
“The Lexington firefighters respect John's abilities and dedication to the Town of Lexington and the Fire Department and are excited about his promotion to the leadership of the Lexington Fire Department.”