NORFOLK — The town’s new fire chief has been the fire chief in Sherborn and formerly played in the NFL.
Erron Kinney was one of three finalists interviewed Tuesday night by selectmen, who supported the recommendation of Town Administrator Blythe Robinson to appoint Kinney.
The other finalists were David Healy, a fire captain for the Foxboro Fire Department, and Paul Barry, deputy fire chief in Walpole.
Kinney became fire chief in Sherborn in July 2017, and had been a firefighter, captain and deputy fire chief. He was a firefighter in South Carolina and fire chief until 2014 in Tennessee.
“He’ll be able to hit the ground running. I think this is a better fit for us,” Robinson said of Kinney, adding he was the only finalist who has been a fire chief, has a diverse background he will be able to draw on, and has a good reputation for working with town boards. “He’ll be able to lead us forward, be part of the community.”
But Robinson acknowledged it was a “tough choice” among the finalists.
“They were fantastic candidates, all had great experience and a lot to offer,” said board Chairman Kevin Kalkut, adding he was particularly pleased to learn Kinney involves all stakeholders in the budget process. “I wholeheartedly agree” with the appointment.
Select board member Carolyn “CiCi” Van Tine said she felt Kinney would have the best “leadership style.”
“He seems very excited,” board member Christopher Wider said, pointing out Kinney’s fairly young age of around 40. “It will bring us to a higher level. It will benefit the firefighters and community. A fantastic selection.”
Sherborn is mostly a call fire department, with about 55 call firefighters. Kinney is one of only three full-timers on the department, and until last October had been the only full-timer.
“It can be challenging at times,” Kinney said.
Referring to the need for a new or renovated fire station in Norfolk, Kinney noted he also had to deal with an aging fire station in Sherborn that was renovated.
“There’s significant needs. It’s close to completely outgrown,” Kinney said of Norfolk’s station. “We’ll get there.”
Referring to himself as African American, he pledged to work to bring more diversity to the fire department, including more females.
Kinney said he had a “diverse range of experience. I’ve served under some great leaders” and taken in “a lot of different perspectives and best practices.”
Kinney played for the Tennessee Titans, and ended up spending six seasons over eight years until 2007 as a tight end in the NFL, but says he has always had a love for firefighting.
He became a firefighter cadet when he was just 13 in Virginia.
“My passion has never gone away,” Kinney said.
Even during his NFL days, he said he continued to take firefighting training classes in different regions of the country and picked up different skills.
The 6-foot, 7-inch Kinney played football and basketball at the University of Florida, and his high school in Virginia where he edited the school newspaper won the state football title.
“You are right, you have not had a very orthodox career, and it’s admirable,” Wider told Kinney.
Responding to Wider’s concern he would use the job as a stepping stone, Kinney said “My career goal has been to be a fire chief in a small town.”
The three finalists were recommended by a search committee from a pool of applicants.
Deputy Fire Chief Peter Petruchik, who initially had been slated to replace Coleman Bushnell when he retired as chief in June before having a change of heart, has been serving as interim fire chief.