BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — NEWBURYPORT — With the upcoming retirement of fire Chief Stephen J. Cutter, city officials have created a screening committee to identify and vet names of candidates to replace him.
Cutter, 54, will be leaving his post Feb. 15, according to a memo issued by Mayor Donna Holaday.
He has served on the Fire Department for 34 years, the past 14 years as chief, overseeing the 34-member group.
Cutter is currently on vacation, and unavailable for comment. But city councilors Monday gave initial approval to a committee established by Holaday that will review candidates for the position.
Screening committee members are At-large Councilor Richard Sullivan Jr., Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins, City Marshal Thomas Howard; Dennis Cataldo, vice president of Cataldo Ambulance Service; Topsfield fire Chief Ronald Giovannacci, Andover fire Chief Michael Mansfield; Joseph Spaulding, a former city councilor and former member of the Fire Department; Daniel May, retired rear admiral of the U.S. Coast Guard; and Peter Lombardi, director of policy and administration for the city.
For the first time in close to 80 years, the new chief will not be part of Civil Service. At the request of the city, recent legislation at the state level removed Newburyport’s police marshal and fire chief both from Civil Service inclusion.
Sullivan said that the screening committee will be meeting in the coming weeks to begin the process of receiving and evaluating applicants.
“I would imagine there will be applicants locally and from around the country,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan, himself a firefighter from 1984 to 2010, said, “Chief Cutter was knowledgeable in his job. I wish him well in retirement.”
Holaday yesterday said, “I have consistently heard from firefighters and other chiefs in the area that when it (a major fire) goes down, there is no one they want at their side but Chief Cutter.
“He has taken great pride in the knowledge, skills and leadership he worked diligently to acquire as he served to protect the residents and business owners of our city. ... His technical expertise will be a challenge to replace.
“On behalf of the city and its citizens, I offer my sincerest thanks to Chief Cutter for his years of selfless commitment and being ready to serve 24/7.”
Recently retired fire Lt. Rick Page said, “The chief obtained a lot of stuff for the department, and he was very knowledgeable about the field of firefighting.
“He was a smart chief and I wish him the best.”