Owls Head appoints first fire chief in 44 years

Mon, 08/21/2023 - 6:00pm

    OWLS HEAD – Based on the recommendation of a 7-member hiring committee of area firefighters, the Owls Head Select Board voted August 21, 2023 to appoint Steven “Skip” Hallett as the next Chief of the Owls Head Fire Department, effective immediately. Minutes after the appointment, which occurred during the monthly Select Board meeting, Hallett was already answering Select Board fire department questions in regards to the next item on the agenda.

    Hallett joined OHFD in 1999 and recently assisted the out-going chief, Frank Ross, on setting this year’s budget in June. As a result, he was able to provide immediate answers as the Board considered how to deal with an increase in gas station invoice charges for filling the FD diesel tanks after hours.

    Along with learning the budget aspects of the job, Hallett has been the department’s training officer for the past five years. Since 2018, he’s held the rank of Captain, and since 2010, he worked in the role of lieutenant. He also served on the Thomaston Fire Department from 1995-1999, and has served on the call division of the Rockland Fire Department since 2017. 

    “I just think he’s a good choice,” said Select Board member Tom Von Malder.

    The vacant Chief position prompted the Select Board to create a task force of seven individuals who were charged with the responsibility of developing guidelines and qualifications to ensure that objective standards were set in advance of advertising the position, both externally and internally, for the Select Board to use to assist them in their decision making process. 

    The task force was comprised of Lieutenant Tim Sternberg and Firefighter Corrie Pritchett, both current members of OHFD; retired OHFD Assistant Chief Jim Philbrook; former Select Board member Deena Carafelli; former FDNY Deputy Commissioner Lynn Tierney; South Thomaston Fire Chief David Elwell; and Rockland Fire Chief Chris Whytock. The task force received additional support from Knox County EMA Director Candice Richards.

    “The first new fire chief in more than four decades was perhaps the most important thing the current Select Board – which also includes Linda Post and Tom Von Malder – has had to do,” said Select Board Chair Gordon Page, in a press release.

    “While the applicants who were invited in for interviews were solid individuals, the Select Board could only choose one, and ultimately picked the applicant who met the highest number of desired qualifications, including documented fire service education and state certification,” he said.

    The Owls Head Fire Department was established by town ordinance as a municipal fire department in 2016. The fire chief is appointed by and reports to the Select Board. 

    Prior to that, the department was known as the Owls Head Volunteer Fire Company, formed in 1953. During those years the fire chief was elected by the members.

    Hallett’s appointment to Chief is for a two year term, with the first six months being probationary in nature. He will be compensated with an annual administrative stipend of $9,528, plus an hourly wage equal to the hourly wage for members of the Owls Head Fire Department for response and participation in emergency calls, training drills and other related work events.

    Hallett is employed by Lowe's Companies as a national account manager. He and his wife, Brooke Harjula Hallett, reside in Owls Head and have two adult children.


    Reach Sarah Thompson at news@penbaypilot.com