Sutton Board of Selectmen honor retired fire chief
Belsito welcomed as new fire chief
BY TOM REILLY
The Sutton Board of Selectmen honored the now retired Fire Chief Paul Maynard at last week’s meeting. Photo Emily Hornsby Sutton Fire Chief Paul Maynard is stepping down, ending a career as a call firefighter that began in 1973. In a proclamation, at the The Sutton Board of Selectmen meetingon Tuesday, May 15, the selectmen cited him for “his exemplary performance as fire chief.” Maynard served as lieutenant, captain and deputy chief before being promoted to chief in 2007. Maynard will step down on May 18, with new chief Matt Belsito, the former Millbury chief, sworn in on Monday, May 21.
Selectman Mike Chizy invited Maynard to come up and the chief told the crowd of firefighters and friends that “the Chief is only as good as what’s out there,” and with this Maynard gestured to the people in the room. “And that’s what you’ve got…It’s not me. It’s them.” He spoke of the firefighters—some “grumpy and old” and some young and even some young females. “That’s your department,” said Maynard. “But the chief molds them,” said Chizy.
“We work together,” said Maynard. “That’s it. Thank you.”
Former police chief and current selectman John Hebert presented a plaque to Maynard in appreciation of his 39 years on the fire department. Hebert said that as a former employee of the town of Sutton that “it was a pleasure to work with Paul for so many years. We had a lot of good fire chiefs but Paul did something that a lot of them didn’t do. It was his commitment to the community and the Sutton Fire Department that put us where we are today. We stand tall and we stand proud.”
Hebert said Maynard was always willing to work with all the other department heads at any time, day or night. He said it was essential during a crisis for everyone to work together and that Maynard was instrumental in that. He said that no matter what was needed that Maynard found a way to do it and he made things easy for the Board of Selectmen.
Selectman Rick Hersom said that at a time like this that it was hard to “choose words that are appropriate.” He said Maynard had done a great job for Sutton and in all of the dealings he had had with him as a selectman and as a member of the finance committee, “you’re a gentleman. You’ve been committed to this town. You’ve been committed to your department. Sad to see you go, but to everything there is a season…You will be missed but never forgotten.”
Selectman Ken Stuart said sometimes people forget the role that the firefighters and the police officers perform every day and it’s “to put your life on the line at any given moment.” He asked everyone to give a round of applause for the public safety officers and then thanked Maynard for serving the town for “an amazing stretch.” He said he believed that Maynard would continue to serve the town in some capacity.
Chizy said he had known Maynard for “quite a while” and that he was a credit to the town. He said Maynard and the fire department were always there when people had a problem, whether it was a flooded basement or a problem with a smoke detector.
“I don’t care what it was, you and your crew were there for these people,” said Chizy. He said the Board has received many letters about the public service provided by the fire department during Maynard’s tenure as chief. He also praised Maynard for his sterling record in the military, describing him as the kind of person who always found the way to get the job done.
Town Administrator Jim Smith said Maynard’s departure would be a significant loss for the town but that even with a “good guy” in Belsito replacing him, it was still a loss. He noted that Maynard was his first appointment as town administrator five years ago “and I’ve never been prouder of anyone than I am of you. You always talked with me and gave me a head’s up about what I was doing. You gave me some good advice and you will be missed…and you won’t be forgotten.” Maynard asked if they were done and he once more gestured at the firefighters: “There’s the thanks there. Every one of them.”
New Fire Chief Ratification – The selectmen then voted to ratify Smith’s appointment of Millbury Fire Chief Matthew Belsito as the new chief in Sutton. Unlike Millbury, Sutton has a full time chief, meaning that this now becomes Belsito’s full-time job, as Sutton has four full time firefighters to manage in addition to its complement of call firefighters.
Smith said this was the culmination of a lengthy process that began in January. Smith ultimately appointed a committee that included retired Grafton Fire Chief Phil Gauthier and Southbridge acting fire chief Mark DiFronzo as well as Sutton Treasurer/Collector Catherine Van Dyne, Sutton Building Commissioner John Couture, Maynard and Smith. He said the candidates were narrowed down to a top seven and then a full day of interviews was held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. He said the committee did a great job and made the selection much easier for him. He especially thanked Gauthier and DiFronzo for the time and energy they gave to the process.
Smith said he, Maynard and Sutton Police Chief Dennis Towle conducted the final set of interviews and at the end “Matt just stood out because of his years of experience as a fire chief.” Smith noted that Belsito had been the fire chief in Millbury for the past five years and he had been an assistant fire chief for seven years before that. “Not only is he good natured, but firefighting is his passion,” said Smith.
Chizy invited Belsito to come up and Belsito told the selectmen that he has been a firefighter since he was 18—“as soon as I could get on.” He added that he had been lucky enough to be around during the days and nights and that former chiefs Phil Day and Tom Nault could vouch for that. He noted that fellow board of fire engineers member Richie Hamilton—who along with Day was in the audience—had been a little mad at him because he had “always been the top alarm getter in town and then I came on and I kind of took that spot away from him or we rivaled from year to year.” He said he has always tried to do the best he could and to “excel in everything related to the fire service.” In 1991 he was promoted to lieutenant at the central fire station and spent another 11 years
there until named assistant chief and later chief.
“During those 27 years, I’ve seen my fair share, gained a lot of knowledge, met a lot of people, made a lot of friends, and fought a lot of the big fires that were around central Mass,” said Belsito. “I like to consider myself as a hands-on chief. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty. I understand about call firefighters and I believe that they are 180% dedicated. I believe they give you what they can and they speak from their hearts and their actions are from their hearts. I like to feel that I fit into all of that.”
Hebert welcomed Belsito and said he thought he would be a “good fit.” He said he thought Sutton had a lot to gain from Belsito and he thought he was “wellrounded.” He said Belsito came well-recommended and he had been at many of the “big tragedies” over the last few years throughout Worcester County. He said he hoped that Belsito would listen to Maynard’s and Smith’s recommendations. “It’s a pleasure to have you here,” said Hebert.
Hersom echoed those sentiments, recalling that he had once been a call firefighter. Hersom said that Gauthier’s recommendation of Belsito as a finalist “spoke volumes” in Hersom’s opinion as to what kind of person and firefighter Belsito would be in Sutton.
Stuart said it was a pleasure to call Belsito “chief” and he promised that the “grilling” he was undergoing that evening would “probably be worse than any fire you fight in Sutton.” Belsito laughed and said that Towle and Maynard “had put it to him pretty good” during the final interview. Stuart said Belsito should be very proud of himself to have made it to the end of the process and won the job. He added that he knew Belsito’s family was proud of him as well.
Chizy congratulated Belsito for making it through the competition and that he watched some of the Millbury meetings on cable and that Belsito’s name was always mentioned favorably there. He said he was sure Belsito would do the same fine job in Sutton that he had done in Millbury. He added that it was wonderful to get an experienced chief especially one who knew some much about call firefighting. “Good luck to you,” said Chizy.
Maynard had the last word, saying that there was one thing in Sutton he had always strived to do. He had police chief Dennis Towle come up and join Belsito. He stressed the importance of the two chiefs working together and he asked Towle to present Belsito with his chief’s helmet.
Later in the meeting, Hersom suggested that the Board send a letter of thanks to Gauthier and DiFronzo.