By Rich Scinto
New Haven Register
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Allyn Wright confirmed Friday night that he has been offered the fire chief’s job and will accept it.
Wright, a city resident, said he was very humbled by the offer.
“I know I have my work cut out for me,” he said, adding that he looks forward to improving the fire service to the best that it can be for the residents of the city.
Michael Grant, the city’s current fire chief, knew he was to be replaced, sources said.
Wright first joined the department in 1975 in the Hill Central fire station. He later served as assistant fire chief for two years, retiring in 2000 after accepting a job with Edmon Holdings, a telecommunications company based in Asia.
He was one of six finalists for the fire chief position in 2003. He retired as an assistant chief.
Wright had been rumored over the past few months to be the leading candidate for the chief post. Among other candidates were current Chief Michael Grant and Lt. Kyle-Hashim Daniels. All three interviewed for the job.
Fire union President Lt. James Kottage congratulated Wright on his coming appointment.
“I look forward to working together with Chief Wright to make this department better,” he said.
Grant’s term expired Feb. 1 and has since held over as chief. He had been chief since 2003, outlasting a number of his police counterparts.
He joined the department in 1972 and served in a number of capacities. He was appointed assistant chief in 1996, according his biography on the city website.
Grant couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Friday night.
Former fire Chief Martin O’Connor called Grant’s 43 years of service a “monumental record of service.”
“With Mike leaving, it really is the end of the era,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said Grant responded to “thousands of emergencies and fires, and he always was the coolest person at the scene, always had extremely good judgment and he could inspire people to do their best; I know that’s going to be his legacy.”
O’Connor, who also worked with Wright, said Wright brings a “depth of experience” to the new position, including emergency medical service and experience as commanding officer of the arson squad.
Wright is set to the take the job in the middle of what has been described as a critical staffing shortage in the department. There are around 116 vacancies. Fire academy classes are planned for the near future.
The union and city have had a back-and-forth argument about the order and weights of promotional tests as well as other issues.
Arguments have played out at the steps of City Hall and Board of Alder meetings. Executive members from the union went before the Board of Finance in November to warn that testing lieutenant positions before captains would lead to more costly litigation. Some members didn’t take kindly to the message and said it sounded more like a threat.
Executive members of the union and the Firebirds Society along with a number of firefighters raised allegations of unfair discipline in the Fire Department based on race at a June Public Safety Committee meeting.
Former Mayor John DeStefano Jr. had directed City Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden to create a report that would review the allegations. Bolden concluded that there was no evidentiary basis for the claim that black or Latino firefighters experienced harsher discipline due to their race.
Both executive members of the union and Firebirds Society called for an independent report.
(c)2014 the New Haven Register (New Haven, Conn.)
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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