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Longtime Chief Retires After 34 Years on the Job

Foster's Daily Democrat via YellowBrix

August 27, 2010

NEWINGTON — After 34 years of fighting fires, Newington Fire Chief Roy Greenleaf is hanging up his coat for retirement.

His office walls are bare, only a few nails and hooks left as reminders of the memorabilia that once hung there — his three purple hearts, his bronze star and a collection of patches from the various firefighter pipe bands he’s played with over the years. His dog Guinness sits next to the desk, spending the last few days with firefighters, until he too retires.

Greenleaf, 62, began his career in 1976 when he became a volunteer fighter for the Eliot, Maine, Fire Department as the first firefighter in his family. He had just returned from Vietnam as a Marine.

“It seemed appropriate. After everything I’ve seen, life becomes very precious,” Greenleaf said. “If you can help someone, then you should.”

He recalls the evolution of firefighting gear he’s seen over the years, going from basic jacket to full ensemble when he joined the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in 1980. In 1990, he heard of a full-time opening in Newington and applied.

“I had to decide at 43 if I wanted to start the system all over again,” Greenleaf said about moving to the Newington Department. “I rolled the dice and look what happened.”

He joined as a firefighter inspector in 1990 and shortly after moved into a full-time position as the Assistant Fire Chief. When Greenleaf began in Newington, it was an on call department with only two full time positions — the chief and himself.

By September 2002, he was promoted to Fire Chief where he says he’s learned a lot and is going to miss the people he’s met along the way.

“It’s been a fun ride,” Greenleaf said. “It doesn’t seem like it’s been 20 years.”

The adventure has been unique, he said. Newington alone has taught him a lot. The small town with a variety of businesses, malls, power plants and fuel farms have kept him busy for the last 20 years.

“It’s a never ending training scenario,” he said. “You’re always learning new things.”

Despite the highs and lows of being a firefighter, Greenland said it has been “quite the ride” and plans on spending more time with his family and traveling while he can.

“With this job, it’s hard,” he said of traveling and being at home. “You can’t just leave and go places. You get a day here and a day there.”

Current Assistant Fire Chief Dale Sylvia will be taking over once Greenleaf officially hands over the station on Tuesday, Aug. 31. Fire Lt. Andy Head will then become Assistant Fire Chief.

The Newington Fire Department will be holding an informal open house on Greenleaf’s last official day Tuesday, Aug. 31 from noon until 4 p.m. Lt. Head and Assistant Chief Sylvia will be sworn into their new positions at 2 p.m. There will be a motorcycle escort at 4 p.m. to send Greenleaf on his way.

“It’s not the chief that makes the department,” Greenleaf said. “It’s the department that makes the chief.”


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