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October 11, 2013

Ipswich fire chief set to retire this month

IPSWICH — Ipswich Fire Chief Rick Smith has decided to retire after 20 years with the department. His last day will be Oct. 20.

Smith, 55, started in Ipswich as a firefighter in 1992 and was promoted to lieutenant before becoming chief in 2011. He started his firefighting career 26 years ago in Lawrence.

”I am very proud of becoming chief,” Smith said. “A lot of people strive for it. It is a difficult position to get.”

Smith said he never imagined himself becoming a firefighter — let alone chief — until seeing the work his father-in-law did as a firefighter in Lawrence.

”I wasn’t one of those kids who grew up dreaming to be a firefighter,” he said. “It was my father-in-law who convinced me into taking the civil service exam.”

Smith stepped in as acting chief after Chief Art Howe stepped down in March 2011. He was hired as the permanent chief in December after a national search by then-Town Manager Bob Markel, who left the become the town manager in Kittery, Maine.

Town Manager Robin Crosbie said she has lined up an interim chief to take over for a six-month period. She would not identify the person she chose yesterday.

”During this period it will give us time to evaluate the department and identify the qualities we need in a successor chief,” she said.

Crosbie described Smith as an important member of her management team who developed a 20-year capital plan for the department, which outlines the future needs of the department.

”He has been a leader for his department in advocating for capital and equipment needs,” she said. “He has expanded training opportunities for firefighters.”

Police Chief Paul Nikas, who also serves as the town’s public safety director, said Smith has a lot of perseverance and dedication to the Fire Department.

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