HARWICH — Fire Chief Norman Clarke, Jr. told selectmen Monday night that he will be retiring on July 18 after 43 years of service to the community. He endorsed Deputy Fire Chief David LeBlanc as his replacement.
The department has had a history of promoting from within. When Clarke was appointed fire chief in October 2011, former selectman Allin Thompson pointed out the department had only one chief appointed from outside the department.
When Clarke was appointed, he replaced retiring fire chief Bill Flynn, who served in the department for 36 years, four of those years as fire chief. The practice of grooming staff to move up the ladder allows department members to understand the roles those who serve above and below ranked officers, Board of Selectmen Chairman Larry Ballantine said.
“It’s time to let the department go and spend more time with my family,” Clarke told selectmen.
Clarke moved here from his hometown in Western Massachusetts right after graduating from college and began working with the department in 1977. He served as a captain in the department for many years and had an active hand in the building of the fire department headquarters on Sisson Road. Just two weeks ago he participated in the open house ceremony for the new station in East Harwich.
In a letter announcing his retirement, Clarke said as of July 17 he will have completed 43 years of service to the department, having served in every position and rank, culminating with the honor of being appointed chief.
“From a very young age it was my dream to be a firefighter. That dream was realized on July 17, 1977 when Chief Charles Hall appointed me to the Harwich Fire Department. It has been a privilege to serve the board of selectmen and the citizens of this great town of Harwich. I believe and certainly hope my efforts as a member of the department over the last 43 years have made it better than when I arrived,” Clark said Monday, reading from his letter.
He noted the selectmen’s role in the creation of a standard of succession within the department, which he has fully continued to follow.
“I pride myself in the professional development of the newest members to the abilities of my second in command. I leave the department in good hands and fully endorse Deputy Chief David LeBlanc as my replacement. The Harwich Fire Department has proven that promoting from within works and best serves the citizens and the organization. This model provides upward mobility for the entire department,” Clarke said.
Clarke pointed out his present contract expires on June 30, 2020 and asked selectmen to extend his contract by 18 days.
“Not many can say after 43 years working in one place, they love going to work every single day and that’s exactly how I feel. It is time to let the department grow and for me to spend more time with my family,” Clarke said to a standing ovation from those in attendance.
“It’s been an honor,” Clarke said. “The letter says it all. I’ll leave it at that.”