BRIDGEWATER — Before a hall filled with family, friends, Whitman officials and dozens of fellow fire chiefs, Whitman Fire Chief Timothy Grenno was sworn in as president of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of Massachusetts (FCAM) during ceremonies at Bridgewater State on Tuesday, May 15.
After taking his oath, administered by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Grenno noted the date coincided with Peace Officer Memorial Day, first designated by President Kennedy in 1962, and thanked police, particularly the Whitman Police Department, for their service.
Grenno pledged to work closely with the firefighters’ union as well as state officials to ensure firefighters’ safety and well being.
“At the end of the day, we are all the fire service,” he said. “We may disagree at times on the fundamentals of some things, but in the end our mission creed is the same: To see that everybody goes home at the end of their shifts.”
He also pledged to work to restore funding for training, mental health services for stress-related issues such as PTSD, fire safety programs to educate the public and for legislation to provide protection from and treatment for work-related cancers.
Grenno offered a special tip of his hat to his mother Marylyn, who he was not sure would be able to make it due to recent health issues. A new rehabilitation facility, however, has recently helped improved her health and she was able to attend.
“She’s always been the strongest person I know,” he said, adding thanks and “saving the best for last,” to his wife Maureen.
“I love you and thank you for your continued support, even if it appears I love my phone more than you sometimes, I really don’t.”
Family and community was the unofficial theme of the event.
“This is a time to celebrate, to highlight, to spotlight public service — and in particular, the fire service,” Polito said. “I hope that you know when come to these gatherings, that no one goes this way alone, that you have a strong and reliable partner in state government.”
She noted that the men and women who devote their lives to public service are not always forefront in the public’s mind so long as streets are plowed, the lights come on and the cable TV connection works.
“I value public service, as you do, and without you we would not be the great state that we are on many levels,” she said. “We have that because of you, and I cannot state that strongly emphatically enough — how grateful we are for your choice of careers — hometown careers in municipal service that have made your communities better and our commonwealth better.”
Grenno was accompanied in the procession opening the ceremony by retired Whitman Fire Chief Timothy Travers, a past president of the FCAM. Whitman Fire Department Chaplain the Rev. Alan Butler offered the invocation.
Before leading the prayer, Butler recalled the little red fire chief cars kids used to dream of getting for a toy — and how times have changed.
“Today, if Timmy is called to a scene in Whitman he shows up in a black Chevy Tahoe,” he said. “The windows couldn’t be any darker. All the lights are camouflaged and you don’t know whether it’s the fire chief or Secret Service agents — and Timmy pops out.”
He spoke of the level of stress among today’s first responder as “beyond telling.” Equipment is taken good care of, but the personnel need support as well, asking for grace upon those gathered, especially among the fire service for work that is hard — if not impossible to talk about.
Guest speakers at the ceremony included Bridgewater State President Frederick Clark, State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey, Travers and Polito before Grenno’s swearing-in and address.
Travers recalled that Grenno’s father was a charter member of IAFF Local 1769, his sister Missy and her husband Richard also served as firefighters.
The need to prevent job-related cancers and increase aid to cities and towns for public safety was also stressed by Travers in his remarks.
Ostroskey said the FCAM is extremely valuable to its members and agreed that cancer prevention, as well as active shooter and hostile event response are key issues today.
Family ties also figured prominently in Clark’s address.
“You’re really part of the family,” Clark said of Grenno, whose wife Maureen has worked for the university for 18 years. “We know your jobs get more and more complicated based on the challenge that comes before you. … Right now we’re challenged by the opioid crisis, which affects us all. But you all manage through those challenges beautifully, you adapt wonderfully and professionally as well.”
He then joked he was presenting Grenno the virtual key to the campus but noted all the doors are locked for the summer.