NORTON — The town’s fire department is moving into a new era with new leadership.
Fire Chief Paul Schleicher is retiring the end of the month, and Deputy Fire Chief Shawn Simmons has been appointed as his successor, becoming just the fifth fire chief for the town.
Capt. Benton W. Keene III has been appointed to replace Simmons as deputy chief.
Town Manager Michael Yunits made the appointment of Simmons, and selectmen confirmed it, along with other promotions in the fire department at their meeting last week, which was attended by family and fellow firefighters.
As Schleicher remarked, “it’s the changing of the guard.”
Schleicher took over from Richard Gomes as head of the fire department in August 2011 and has moved it forward in a number of ways, town officials say, from improving equipment and technology to enhancing personnel.
He has also served as the town’s emergency management director.
Schleicher has also played a key role as the town is getting ready to move into a regional public safety communications center in Foxboro with that town and Mansfield and Easton.
Schleicher had previously served as deputy chief for seven years and has been in the department for about 45 years. He rose through the department’s ranks, becoming a shift commander in 1990.
Simmons has been deputy fire chief since December 2017, replacing David Myles, who himself replaced Schleicher. Simmons had served as a captain for several years.
A member of the department since 1998, Simmons previously worked on the Dartmouth Fire Department for five years. Simmons graduated at the top of his class from the state firefighter training academy, is a member of the Bristol County technical rescue team, is an instructor at the firefighter training academy and has a degree in fire science and is accredited as a fire chief.
Schleicher said Simmons has been “extremely instrumental” with grant writing for the department.
Keene, who has been with the department 44 years, became a call firefighter in 1975, was one of the department’s first EMTs in 1977, joined the department full-time in 1979, and became a shift commander in 1991. He moved from lieutenant to captain when the department reorganized several years ago.
Replacing Keene as captain is firefighter Jason Robbins.
At a special selectmen’s meeting scheduled for Aug. 22, fire department personnel will be recognized, including firefighters for longevity.