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Chris Pope, ex-Concord fire chief, stepping down as state homeland-security director

Chris Pope, State of New Hampshire, Department of Safety, Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Director

Chris Pope, State of New Hampshire, Department of Safety, Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Director Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

Chris Pope, the former Concord fire chief who in 2006 became New Hampshire’s first director of homeland security and emergency management, plans to step down in January.

“I actually came to this decision late in the summer, before the election, that it was a great time for me to move on,” Pope said yesterday. “It’s a great opportunity for this agency, I think, to get new leadership and bring Homeland Security and Emergency Management to a new level. . . . Honestly, I don’t think our agency will skip one beat in my absence.”

Pope, 55, grew up in Hopkinton and worked for the Concord Fire Department for 29 years before Gov. John Lynch named him to the state post, which was created in 2006 as part of the Department of Safety. That July, Pope, who lives in Concord, was confirmed unanimously by the Executive Council.

Pope’s departure was announced yesterday by Lynch’s office.

“Chris Pope is an incredible public servant, and he has done an outstanding job as director of homeland security and emergency management,” Lynch said in a statement. “New Hampshire has seen more than its fair share of natural disasters, and I credit Chris and his team for their leadership in building New Hampshire’s response capabilities and coordinating our responses to so many incidents. Chris is always the calm in the center of the storm, leaning forward to ensure New Hampshire is prepared and our citizens protected.”

It has been a busy few years for Pope, who has helped lead the state’s response to the 2008 ice storm, the 2010 wind storm, last year’s “Snowtober” storm and Hurricanes Irene and Sandy.

“We’ve had 12 federally declared disasters in my time here,” Pope said. “We’ve had a lot of other high-profile public-safety incidents . . . but that’s what Homeland Security and emergency management is all about. We’re the ones who help coordinate state response to those kind of incidents.”

With Lynch set to leave office in January, picking a replacement for Pope is being left to Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan.

“There is no more important job for a governor than public safety, and I look forward to working closely with (Safety) Commissioner (John) Barthelmes in the coming weeks to find a qualified, effective, and responsive homeland security and emergency management director,” Hassan said in a statement.

Pope had high praise yesterday for Lynch, saying that in more than 35 years of public safety work, “I’ve never worked with anyone with the work ethic and the ability to make decisions under fire as this governor.”

And Pope said he looks forward to spending more time with his family.

“I have a list of about 55 things that I want to do. It’s kind of like a bucket list, but I don’t intend to depart, if you know what I mean. . . . None of them involve work for a significant amount of time,” Pope said.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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