For the first time in the history of the Warwick Fire Department, the mayor has reached outside the ranks of the department to name a chief.
Tonight, the Board of Public Safety is expected to approve Mayor Joseph Solomon’s selection of Peter K. McMichael, retired Providence Fire Department fire marshal, as chief of the Warwick department.
Solomon said Monday that in anticipation of his appointment, McMichael has met with Michael Carreiro, president of the Warwick Firefighters Union, as well as other members of the department.
“We look forward to it…heard good things about him,” Carreiro said. He acknowledged this would be the department’s first chief not to have climbed the ranks through the department. “I respect the mayor’s decision,” he said.
A resident of Cumberland, McMichael will succeed Marcel Fontenault, who served as acting chief since last May when former Mayor Scott Avedisian resigned to become the president and CEO of the Rhode Island Transit Authority and, within days, James McLaughlin retired as chief.
In recent weeks, Solomon said he had received inquiries about the chief’s position from inside and outside the department and was waiting for the right candidate.
“I connected with him [McMichael] through the professional circle, more or less. People knew that Warwick didn’t have someone of a permanent nature right now, and then when the current acting chief indicated that he was going to retire, I pushed the issue more, grabbed résumés, and this one here, I sat down with this gentleman, and I’m very pleased with what I see,” Solomon said.
McMichael started his career with Providence Fire in 1988. As fire marshal, he was the commanding officer of all operations of the Providence Fire Prevention Bureau. He is a graduate of Roger Williams University, where he received his Master of Public Administration degree. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from Roger Williams and an associate’s degree in fire service from Providence College.
Prior to being named fire marshal, McMichael held positions as captain of the Fire Prevention Bureau/Arson Squad and first lieutenant.
Solomon said neither the topics of pay nor a contract were brought up in his job interview with McMichael.
“I’ve got to say, all my directors are here without contracts, and that’s the faith they have in me, that’s the faith and love and dedication they have to the community, and that, in and of itself, is a positive fact there,” the mayor said.
Solomon added that when he talked to McMichael and others serving in leadership positions, “It’s not about contracts, it’s about trust. It’s about the ability to do the job and it’s about your dedication to the community, and whether it be the public works director, to the colonel of the police, or deputy chief of the police, and in this society, that says something about the character of the people that I’m bringing on board.”
Solomon said his directors are not only qualified, “but their heart and soul are in the right place to perform the tasks that they’ve been brought on to perform.”
As for the rate of pay, Solomon did not have an amount but said it would be what is in the budget.
“But again, it’s not about money and contracts, it’s about wanting to do the job,” he said.
Asked about pay for unused sick time, lack of a contract and issues swirling around the department, including an unconfirmed inquiry by the FBI, Solomon said those issues are in arbitration. Also, he said that Fontenault has prepared and briefed McMichael on a 2019-20 budget.