Gre­gory Priest Pro­moted To Be Town’s New Fire Chief

Hartford Courant (Sunday) - - Connecticut - By MIKAELA PORTER mm­porter@courant.com

WEST HART­FORD — Af­ter nearly three months as one of West Hart­ford’s as­sis­tant fire chiefs, Gre­gory Priest has been named the town’s new fire chief.

Priest, 41, was hired in June as as­sis­tant fire chief, leav­ing his job as UConn fire chief, where he over­saw the Storrs cam­pus and UConn Health de­part­ment in Farm­ing­ton.

Town Man­ager Matthew Hart said Fri­day evening that he was im­pressed with Priest’s short ten­ure in West Hart­ford and asked him if he was in­ter­ested in the job. Priest did not ap­ply for the chief ’s job, and was not one of the two fi­nal­ists from a pool of 18 can­di­dates, Hart said.

“One of the things that im­pressed me dur­ing his short ten­ure here was his knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence,” Hart said Fri­day evening. “He’s de­vel­oped ef­fec­tive work­ing re­la­tion­ships within town and through the depart- ment’s rank and file. … He’s present; he’s vis­i­ble; he’s en­gaged.”

Hart said in re­view­ing the two fi­nal­ists he was “con­cerned as to whether ei­ther would be the best fit for the de­part­ment and town” but noted that both fi­nal­ists had good ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge. Hart said un­der the town’s hir­ing pro­ce­dure, he has “sig­nif­i­cant dis­cre­tion” in the hir­ing of de­part­ment di­rec­tors.

Hart said he con­sulted the town’s hu­man re­sources de­part­ment and mem­bers of the town coun­cil lead­er­ship be­fore mak­ing his de­ci­sion, and did not hear con­cerns from ei­ther.

Priest will take over as chief on Nov. 10. He will be paid a $140,000 salary.

Priest said he was “deeply humbled” when Hart ap­proached him about the job.

“Chief Allyn built an in­cred­i­ble foun­da­tion,” Priest said. “I think I would like to con­tinue to as­sess and see the results of the de­part­ment’s ef­fi­ciency study, as­sess op­por­tu­ni­ties for im­prove­ment and cap­i­tal­ize on what we’re do­ing well now.”

Priest grew up in Avon and has fam­ily in Sims­bury. He said it is nice to re­turn to an area he knows. Priest started as a vol­un­teer fire­fighter and po­lice cadet in 1992.

UConn hired Priest in 1997 as a fire­fighter and para­medic, and he as­cended to chief 2016. He over­saw 44 sworn fire­fight­ers from two sta­tions — at UConn’s main cam­pus in Storrs and UConn Health in Farm­ing­ton.

Through his ca­reer, he has served as a tac­ti­cal med­i­cal provider for Meri­den’s SWAT team and the North Cen­tral Con­necti­cut Emer­gency Ser­vices Unit and has pro­vided med­i­cal sup­port for the FBI New Haven SWAT team.

He earned an as­so­ci­ate’s de­gree in para­medic stud­ies, a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in fire ad­min­is­tra­tion, para­medic stud­ies, crim­i­nal jus­tice and a cer­tifi­cate in busi­ness mas­tery for pub­lic ser­vice pro­fes­sion­als.

He lives in Salem with his two chil­dren, Gre­gory and Alexa.

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