Conditional offer on the table for interim fire chief

Naugatuck interim Fire Chief Ellen Murray, center, talks with firefighters Ethan Gagnon, left, and Kevin Gorman in December at fire headquarters on Maple Street. The borough has made Murray a conditional offer to become the next chief of the Naugatuck Fire Department. –FILE PHOTO

Naugatuck interim Fire Chief Ellen Murray, center, talks with firefighters Ethan Gagnon, left, and Kevin Gorman in December at fire headquarters on Maple Street. The borough has made Murray a conditional offer to become the next chief of the Naugatuck Fire Department. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — The borough has made a conditional offer to Ellen Murray to become the next chief of the Naugatuck Fire Department.

Murray, 57, the acting chief for the past eight months, will attempt to negotiate a contract with the borough to become chief on a full-time basis. She would be the first female chief in the department’s 128-year history.

“I am honored and humbled that the fire commission thinks I am qualified to do the job,” Murray said. “I hope we can come to terms on a contract.”

The Board of Fire Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday night at the department’s headquarters on Maple Street to offer the position to Murray, the only person it considered for the position. Now, Murray will negotiate the terms of a contract with the borough’s human resources department.

Murray, the former deputy chief, replaced former Chief Ken Hanks, who retired in August. He earned $89,890 a year as head of the department. Murray is currently earning the equivalent of Hanks’ salary.

Murray joined the Naugatuck Fire Department as deputy chief in 2011 after she retired from the Stratford Fire Department, where she served as a firefighter for 28 years. She graduated from Southern Connecticut State University in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education; she took the firefighter’s exam on a dare, she says.

While much ado has been made about her being the fire female fire chief in Naugatuck, Murray has maintained that gender should not be an issue and that she is happy just being the chief.

She will oversee a department that has 32 firefighters, four dispatchers, two people in the fire marshal’s office and the second assistant chief.

John Ford, chairman of the Naugatuck Board of Fire Commissioners, said the board believes Murray has done a fine job as acting chief.

“I think we waited a little long, but on the other hand, we wanted to see her performance, and she has done an exceptional job in a majority of the areas, including the budget, handling retirements and the process of hiring new people,” he said. “So we feel comfortable with her as chief.”

Next week, he said, the board will meet to discuss how to proceed with filling the deputy chief’s position to replace Murray.

“We want to find someone who can move into the position and continue forward to become chief one day,” Ford said.