BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — NEWBURYPORT — A screening committee charged with culling the list of candidates for the city’s next fire chief met yesterday to begin reviewing the 45 applicants for the job.
Chief Stephen Cutter is slated to retire Feb. 15 after more than three decades of service.
Municipal leaders say the position will pay about $115,000 to $120,000 per year.
The local screening committee will eliminate the weaker applicants, and those who survive will be assessed by an independent review panel with experience in the employment of firefighting executives.
The local screening committee will interview those whose names have been forwarded by the review panel, and a recommendation will be sent to Mayor Donna Holaday.
Her choice then must be approved by the City Council, municipal officials say.
The process will likely take several months, and the president of the local firefighters’ union yesterday noted yesterday that an acting chief has not yet been named.
“It’s of concern to us that we do not know who will be leading the department after Feb. 15,” Bob Morse, the local union leader, said. “Many decisions have to be made on a day-to-day basis, and it hasn’t been announced who is going to be in charge.”
Cutter, 54, has served on the department for 34 years, the past 14 years as chief of the 34-member group.
Screening committee members are City Councilor Dick 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 fire 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 from civil service inclusion.