Tilton/Northfield fire chief announces resignation, will take job in Gilford
The Tilton/Northfield fire chief will be leaving the department in mid-October to become deputy fire chief in Gilford.
Bradley Ober, who became chief in 2010, announced his resignation recently, fire Commissioner Paul Auger said. Ober’s residency in Ashland has been a point of contention for the past several years, as he signed a contract when he became chief requiring him to move to Tilton or Northfield within 18 months.
Reached yesterday, Ober said it was his day off and declined to comment.
Auger, the fire commissioner, said it’s possible the residency issue contributed to Ober’s decision to resign but declined to comment further on the matter.
“It’s been settled, he’s moved on, we’re going to move on and it’s behind us now,” Auger said.
Gilford fire Chief Stephen Currier announced Ober’s hiring as deputy chief Sept. 12, before he officially resigned from the Tilton/Northfield department, the Laconia Daily Sun reported. Currier could not be reached for comment.
Deputy Chief Michael Robinson will take over as interim chief when Ober departs in mid-October, and Capt. Timothy Joubert will become interim deputy chief. The chief’s position is full time, and Auger said the commissioners hope to have a permanent chief by Jan. 1. The search committee will include residents from both towns, selectmen from both towns and representatives from the Lakes Region Mutual Aid communities. The chief presides over 13 full-time firefighters and at least a dozen volunteers, Auger said.
Ober began working for the department in 2004 and was appointed to the position of chief in 2010. At that time he was living in Ashland, but signed the contract in November 2010 that said he would move into the district within 18 months. The fire commissioners extended that deadline to Jan. 2, 2013, when Ober said he would have to take a financial loss if he sold his home, according to fire commission meeting minutes from last fall. At the time, several community members, including Selectwoman Pat Consentino, were angered by the commissioners’ adherence to the contract.
The problem was temporarily solved when Ober rented an apartment in Tilton just one day before he was set to be fired. But meeting minutes show debate on the issue continued. A group of residents petitioned to add a warrant article at the March meeting to remove the requirement that the fire chief live within the fire district, but it was tabled by voters.
In a June meeting this year, Commissioner Pat Clark said several people had told him Ober often stayed at his Ashland home instead of his Tilton apartment and discussed checking the mileage on Ober’s department vehicle. Then in August, the commissioners began discussing a residency policy for the entire department. Clark said he believed both the chief and deputy chief should be required to live in one of the two towns, but no action was taken during the meeting.
Auger said Ober was well-regarded in the community and served a successful tenure as fire chief.
“He’s done some great things for the department,” Auger said.