Augusta Fire Chief David Groder at Hartford Station in Augusta. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file Buy this Photo

AUGUSTA — City councilors made Dave Groder the city’s new fire chief in a unanimous vote Thursday.

Groder, who most recently served as acting chief and deputy chief of the department, grew up wanting to be a firefighter like his dad Alfred was in Skowhegan. He said becoming fire chief fulfills a lifelong goal. He’s been a firefighter in Augusta since 1988.

He was City Manager William Bridgeo’s appointment to replace former chief Roger Audette, who retired in December of last year. City councilors confirmed Groder in a 8-0 vote in an online meeting Thursday night.

“That 33 years is a commitment; 33 years is a quest to climb up through the ranks and get to the top of the ladder, so to speak. I know you’re very proud of that; you should be,” Mayor David Rollins said of Groder becoming chief after 33 years as a firefighter in Augusta.

Bridgeo said Groder was selected because he has the qualities of an outstanding fire services leader, is a consummate professional who has dedicated his entire adult life to public safety, has continued his education including obtaining his bachelors degree in fire science in 2017, is smart and has proven himself.

Bridgeo said Groder was the best person for the job, and also had the recommendation of Audette.


“All his life, really since childhood, has centered around public safety, and I believe we’re fortunate as a community, when we have a vacancy for such a significant position, to find someone of this kind,” Bridgeo said. “I very much look forward to working with him and relying on him to ensure this critical public safety service we have is properly managed.”

When councilors approved the appointment of Groder they also approved a waiver to an Augusta City Charter requirement for the chief to live in the city. They added that waiver provision several years ago when Audette wanted to move from his Augusta home to one he was building in Readfield.

The proposed council order waiving the residency requirement states it would return if Groder were to move from his current Oakland residence, where he has lived since 1990. He lives there with his partner, Jenni Greenlaw, and her daughters. Groder also serves as a captain with Oakland Fire and Rescue and as a member of the Oakland Town Council.

Ward 4 Councilor Eric Lind said granting the waiver is a big deal, because it is a requirement of a city ordinance. He told Groder the job comes with a huge responsibility to serve the community and is a highly visible position. He congratulated and expressed confidence in Groder.

Groder’s salary will be about $108,000 a year, which Bridgeo said is an increase of about 10% more than his current salary.

At-Large Councilor Marci Alexander said she liked that the city hired from within the department.


“That shows if you do a good job and show people what you’re skills are, you can be promoted in the city of Augusta,” she said.

Groder was selected over veteran Battalion Chief Steve Leach, who was also a finalist. In a letter to Bridgeo, Rollins and city councilors, the Augusta Uniformed Firefighters Association, which represents most city firefighters, had recommended the city hire Leach.

However neither Bridgeo, Groder or Leach anticipate any problems, within the department, with the city’s choice of Groder for the new chief.

Groder and Leach started working for the city within four months of each other, in 1988, and Leach said they’ve gone up against each other for promotions multiple times over their years with the city.

While he is disappointed he didn’t get the job, Leach said he appreciates that there were union members supporting him, he loves his current job, and plans to put in for the deputy chief’s position in Augusta.

Bridgeo said he weighed the union’s letter among many other factors when he made his decision.

A panel created to make a hiring recommendation included Susan Robertson, assistant city manager and human resources director; Waterville Fire Chief Shawn Esler and Bangor City Manager Catherine Conlow. That group narrowed the field of candidates to two, and Bridgeo made the final choice.

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