East Greenwich Fire Chief Peter Henrikson, who began his service to the town as a junior firefighter in 1981 and became chief in 2010, will retire effective Sept. 19. The Town Council voted 5-0 to approve his separation agreement.
"Given the acquisition of the Fire District and changes that that will bring, and also important changes in the benefits that will result from that, Fire Chief Henrikson expressed a desire to retire," said Town Council President Michael Isaacs.
Henrikson, who has been out on medical leave, could not be reached for comment.
His retirement is just the latest change in a tumultuous year for the fire service, which transitioned from an independent fire district to a town department following passage of a town referendum endorsing such a move last November and passage of a bill mandating the change by the General Assembly in the spring. Governor Lincoln Chafee signed the bill into law in June.
Henrikson's existing contract, which was negotiated by the former East Greenwich Fire District commissioners, runs through June 30, 2014.
The separation agreement approved by the Town Council Monday night calls for Henrikson's last day on the job to be Sept. 19. He will be paid around $30,000 for his 83 days accrued vacation pay, as well as accumulated sick pay of around $12,000.
Town Council President Michael Isaacs said the town will not be paying Henrikson's salary beyond Sept. 19 and that the vacation and sick days are allowed under his current contract.
"I think it's a fair agreement for both sides," said Isaacs.
Interim Town Manager Tom Coyle said the decision to retire came from Henrikson. "During my meetings with him, during [union contract] negotiations, he approached me with the idea that it was time for him to go," said Coyle Monday night. "We worked out a package that was beneficial to everyone."
Town Councilor Mike Kiernan spoke up for the retiring chief. "I think we'd be remiss not to recognize Chief Henrikson's contributions over 20 years – as a volunteer, a firefighter, deputy chief and chief – as someone who's been absolutely dedicated to this town," Kiernan said.
In the interim, Deputy Fire Chief Russell McGillvray remains in charge of the fire department.
"We're just going to take things day by day," said Coyle. "The department is in good hands with Russ until that point we make that changeover."