WATERVILLE — Waterville fire Captain Shawn Esler will become the city’s new fire chief July 1 and was hired with the expectation that he will be chief of both the city and Winslow fire departments, City Manager Michael Roy announced Tuesday.

Esler, 29, of Albion, has been with the fire department 10 years, and has been captain since 2015. He was hired in 2008 and promoted to lieutenant in 2011.

Esler, who will be paid $95,000 a year in salary and benefits, will replace fire Chief David LaFountain, who has been chief of both Waterville and Winslow fire departments 10 years, was a firefighter and captain in Waterville 34 years and a part-time Winslow firefighter for five years before that. LaFountain will retire June 30.

At 62, LaFountain will be leaving firefighting after nearly 40 years of service.

On Tuesday, LaFountain praised Esler as a hardworking and conscientious member of the fire department who has written grants that netted the department equipment and training that elevates the department from a basic EMS service to EMT level.

“I think it’s always a good reflection when somebody from inside moves up, and Shawn had worked hard over the years to improve himself and to get promoted and has been able to do that,” LaFountain said. “Even now, he’s attending paramedic school to make himself better as EMS officer for the city.”

Roy said nine people, both within and outside the department, applied for the fire chief’s position and five were interviewed.

“We were impressed with all five — very impressed,” Roy said. “I think we were very fortunate in having very well qualified people come forward, and it was a difficult decision given that Shawn had some advantages as he was familiar with the department already and very familiar with Winslow. He has been hired with the expectation that we can continue the sharing of the position with Winslow.”

Roy noted that a final, formal decision for the Winslow position has not yet been made.

Roy said Esler showed in his application process that he is very eager, takes the firefighting and rescue professions very seriously and is a very good example of a public servant.

“It was clear that he has a real strong interest, desire to do public service,” Roy said.

Esler is a 2006 graduate of Lawrence High School in Fairfield and enrolled in the emergency medical services and firefighting programs at Mid-Maine Technical Center at Waterville Senior High School. He received an associate degree in fire service from Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor and while he was a student there, lived as a student at the Ellsworth Fire Department.

He will take over a department in Waterville that employs 15 full-time firefighters and around 35 call firefighters. Winslow has six full-time firefighters.

“Obviously, I’m very proud to be a part of this agency,” Esler said Tuesday of the Waterville Fire Department. “This agency has over 200 years of history and tradition in providing the absolute best emergency services and fire suppression, prevention, to the citizens of Waterville. This is going to be, probably, my second greatest achievement in my life. My first was marrying my wife.”

Esler’s wife Amanda was executive assistant to Roy and the city mayor many years.

Shawn Esler said he is enthusiastic, passionate, and very proud of the fire department.

“This agency has so many talented people,” he said. “Chief LaFountain has laid an outstanding foundation for us to build upon. We’re simply going to harness the talent of our employees and tap into the incredible work ethic and knowledge of the employees as a whole to continue to deliver these services to the citizens.”

Elser said the fire department will continue to maintain an open door policy, and his first step as chief will be to promote a fire captain from within and hire a new firefighter, as the department will be one short with the promotions.

“As you get to the top and become a manager, you start focusing on other people, and a real rewarding activity is promoting the talented people that are already in this building,” he said.

LaFountain said Esler’s talent as the EMS officer for Waterville was recognized by the state EMS board and because of his efforts, the Waterville Fire Department will be recognized Wednesday in Augusta for excellence in service.

Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey on Tuesday congratulated Esler in an email: “Well earned/deserved and I look forward to working with you,” Massey wrote.

Roy said a search committee made up of three Waterville employees, including Roy, and two Winslow employees, worked on the search for a new chief. Interviews were conducted last week and Esler was notified Tuesday that he was chosen.

Roy, who makes personnel decisions, hired Esler for the position, which includes a three-year contract.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

filed under: