Commission appoints former fire chief as deputy chief

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By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

Ken Hanks

NAUGATUCK — The Board of Fire Commissioners unanimously voted July 12 to hire former Naugatuck Fire Chief Ken Hanks, who retired in 2015, as the deputy fire chief.

The appointment is contingent on the Board of Mayor and Burgesses approving a contract for Hanks. The board is expected to discuss the contract in executive session during a special meeting July 19.

Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess, who is a voting member of the commission, said officials are familiar with Hanks from his time with the department. After he retired, Hess said Hanks continued to volunteer for the borough, including on the Board of Finance and as part of the unified command team, which responds to emergencies.

“Without any hesitation, I can say he’s the best man in the state for the job,” Hess said.

Hanks could not be reached for comment. A message left seeking comment was not returned.

Hanks started his career as a volunteer with the Naugatuck Volunteer Fire Department, which no longer exists, in 1982. He was hired as a full-time career firefighter three years later, and climbed the ranks in the department. He became deputy chief in 2005 and chief in 2010.

Hanks will replace former Deputy Fire Chief James Trzaski, who resigned in June to become chief of the South Fire District of Middletown.

Hanks receives a pension from the borough of about $78,000 a year, according to Republican-American archives. He also receives health coverage as part of his retirement benefits. Since he is already receiving benefits, the borough won’t provide health care under his contract as deputy chief.

Borough policy states that departments can only hire someone who retired from the borough for department head-level positions or part-time, temporary or seasonal jobs.

Hanks’ appointment continues a recent trend of appointments of retired firefighters for administrative roles in the department.

Fire Chief Paul Russell retired from the department in 2017 before being appointed deputy fire chief days later. Russell was appointed chief in 2020. Trzaski retired from the department as a captain in 2014, before his stint as deputy chief started last August.

Hess said the borough saves tens of thousands by not paying for benefits for someone who receives them through retirement. In the case of Hanks, he said the borough can hire the best person for the job and save money.

“It’s a pretty easy choice for me,” he said.

The commission last week also promoted Lt. David Proulx to captain, and firefighters Brandon Johnson, Matthew Hetrick and Benjamin Mike each to lieutenant. The commission appointed Richard Hally deputy fire marshal.