HARWICH — Deputy Fire Chief David LeBlanc was appointed Monday night to replace Fire Chief Norman Clarke, Jr. as the new chief. The appointment is contingent upon successful negotiations of a contract with LeBlanc.
“This will check the last box for me,” said Clarke, who will retire in July. “I can assure you with this appointment the Harwich Fire Department and the town of Harwich is in great hands. You’ve got a great man and a true professional.”
In a remote presentation to selectmen, LeBlanc, who grew up in Dennis, detailed his service to the community over 27 years, including the last four years as deputy fire chief. He was appointed deputy in 2015 when deputy chief Kent Farrenkopf left to take the fire chief’s position in Eastham.
In a cover letter accompanying his resume, LeBlanc said his years with the department provided the knowledge and experience to excel as the next chief. Over that period, he has had an amazing range of experiences, serving in all facets of the fire service, he wrote, including communications, emergency medical services, fire prevention, fire suppression, and most recently department administration. He has also served as grant writer for the department.
“Most importantly though, my greatest achievement is the passion that I possess that guides me each and every day — the passion to serve our community with the highest degree of dedication and integrity,” LeBlanc wrote.
The newly appointed fire chief will replace Clarke, who will be retiring on July 18. Clarke will have served in the department for 43 years. He was appointed chief in 2011. He said it is time to spend more time with his family.
“I leave the department in good hands and fully endorse Deputy Fife Chief David LeBlanc as my replacement,” Clarke said when announcing his retirement a couple of months ago. “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.”
LeBlanc started working in the department as a fire alarm operator in 1993. He brought to that position a bachelor of science degree in arson investigation with a minor in criminal justice from the University of New Haven. He is a graduate of the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services chief fire officer program and has a fire chief accreditation from the fire service commission.
“Throughout my career I have gained great experience working as part of our region’s fire service here on the Cape. Working with other chiefs and command staff, I have a clear understanding of the mutual aid resources and capabilities of our neighbors and have worked to strengthen our partnerships across the fire service as an incident commander, personnel leader and mentor,” LeBlanc said. “As chief, I will work to build upon the successes we as a department have achieved to date and expand on positive relationships that will help our residents and businesses right here in Harwich.”
He praised the department’s system that mentors personnel in moving up through the ranks with a clear path for promotion.
Selectman Donald Howell said he has heard people refer to that as nepotism, but he disagreed, saying it is commendable to reward personnel for outstanding work. The department, he added, is widely respected.
“We should reward this talent, it is a reflection of the talent we have there,” Howell said.
“I think you have earned it,” Selectman Michael MacAskill told LeBlanc.
“These are difficult times and we will need a good strong leader. I’m sure you will be that person,” added Selectman Stephen Ford.
The board voted 4-0 to appoint LeBlanc. Selectman Ed McManus was not remotely participating at the time of the vote.