Temple

A decade in the hot seat

Connolly stepping down after 10 years a fire chief, but he’s staying with the department

  • Fire Chief Mike Connolly will not be running for Fire Chief this year, after 10 years in the role. He will, however, remain on the department.

    Fire Chief Mike Connolly will not be running for Fire Chief this year, after 10 years in the role. He will, however, remain on the department.

  • Fire Chief Mike Connolly will not be running for Fire Chief this year, after 10 years in the role. He will, however, remain on the department.

    Fire Chief Mike Connolly will not be running for Fire Chief this year, after 10 years in the role. He will, however, remain on the department.

  • Fire Chief Mike Connolly will not be running for Fire Chief this year, after 10 years in the role. He will, however, remain on the department.
  • Fire Chief Mike Connolly will not be running for Fire Chief this year, after 10 years in the role. He will, however, remain on the department.

Mike Connolly’s desire to be a firefighter was sparked at the time when most are fascinated with all things fire-engine red. And the most ambitious of little boys don’t just want to be a fireman. They want to be chief. That’s a dream Connolly has been living for the past 10 years. But now it’s time to step down and let someone else take the Temple reins for awhile, Connolly said in an interview Friday.

Each year, the town holds an internal process to nominate and elect a fire chief. For the past decade, that has been Connolly. This year, however, he will not be putting his hat in the ring, he said. It’s always been his goal, he said, since he first took the position, to hold it for 10 years, longer than any other Temple fire chief. Now, he’s done that, and he would like to go back to being a regular firefighter. It’s something that his quick rise to responsibility didn’t really allow him to do the first time around, he said.

When he first joined the fire department, he was promoted to fire captain within six months, and elected to chief within four years, and has held that position since. While he doesn’t plan to run for chief this year, he will remain on the department, but not in a leadership role, he said.

“I want to have fun. I want to put the air pack on. I want to be able to chop cars. I want to be a firefighter,” he said. There are four candidates stepping up for the position of chief, he said, so he’s confident the department will end up in good hands. The candidates are Will Wildes, a former Temple fire chief, Deputy Chief George Clark, Third Lt. Ken Petria, and Luke Peterson.

“Each one has their own strength and way they do things,” said Connolly. “I have told them all, ‘You can’t come in thinking you know everything. There’s so much to learn, and we can all absorb so much, but you can’t absorb everything. You have to utilize the people in your department.’”

That’s been the cornerstone of Connolly’s leadership, he said. When he was first elected to the position of fire chief and he arrived on his first scene in that role, the deputy chief had already arrived and had command of the scene. So, Connolly moved to the next job, and left him in command.

“I’ve never pulled command from a younger commander who was doing a competent job,” said Connolly. “That’s how people learn. That’s how I learned. Temple is a small department, and you need to use everyone’s assets as much as possible.”

While Temple has only had a few serious fires — only five that Connolly could recall from his time as chief — there have been times they’ve had to jump into the fray. During the 2008 ice storm, Connolly was out in the trenches helping senior residents by hooking up emergency generators to their homes. He left his own home with an outbuilding damaged by a fallen tree, to return to discover that other fire department volunteers had made repairs in his absence.

Connolly has left other marks on the department as well. He’s been involved in starting the local Monadnock Fire Chief’s group, and has been instrumental in organizing a regional training for farm safety. As a owner of the Connolly Brother’s Dairy Farm, Connolly said he knows just how traumatic injuries involving some of the major equipment used on a farm can be. And it has other applications, too, he said — the same techniques used in a tractor rollover can be applied to a car accident, for example. Connolly was also instrumental in the department purchasing a forest truck for the department.

Connolly said he has been asked to run for the town’s fire engineers, which is a town-elected position, but he plans to take at least one year before doing so. The fire department will elect its new chief on Jan. 6.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.

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