Liberty Township said good-bye to Interim Fire Chief William Fields Jr. Monday evening in a brief farewell during the township trustees meeting.
“We went through a six-month process where I was given the most help that I’d ever been given from my bosses,” Fields said. “They understood we had some things we needed to work through.”
Fields said it all starts with the mindset of the trustees.
“From the very beginning it was about their people.” he said. “They wanted to make sure that the people of Liberty Township, the people of Powell and the employees of Liberty Township are taken care of.”
“I just want to say thank you,” Fields said. “You truly, truly stepped out and did something different.”
Trustee Melanie Leneghan said Fields was the perfect person to be interim chief. She said even though Fields was hired temporarily, he did more than just show up for work each day.
“Chief Fields was the perfect person to fill the spot,” she said. “He came and made a big positive difference and a big impact in our fire department. He didn’t need to commit the way he did; he was an interim chief.”
Leneghan presented an inscribed plaque of appreciation to Fields.
“With our deepest appreciation the Liberty Board of Trustees recognizes Chief William A. Fields Jr. Thank you for your commitment, outstanding leadership and dedication to the Liberty Township Fire Department and community. You will be truly missed,” she read.
“That’s the truth,” Leneghan said. “We truly love him.”
Chief Thomas O’Brien presented Fields with a signed fire helmet from all the members of the fire department. O’Brien was appointed the township’s fire chief Feb. 22 in a special session of the trustees.
“I owe this man a great deal of gratitude,” O’Brien said. “He helped me to be standing where I am today.”
O’Brien said Fields was instrumental in the selection process of the township finding a permanent fire chief. He said Fields helped guide the trustees in their search and decision for a new chief.
“I thank him for that,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien is a 31-year veteran of the fire service who has worked his way up through the ranks from firefighter/paramedic to assistant fire chief with the Newark, Ohio, fire department.
“I know there have been issues in the past,” O’Brien said in an interview Feb. 22. “I told all the men I’m coming with a clean slate. What is past is past; it’s time to move forward.”
Fields was appointed interim fire chief by trustees Oct. 3.
Fields is a retired 34-year veteran of the fire service, having served as a firefighter, a captain and battalion chief in the City of Worthington Fire Department.
After his appointment during the same meeting Fields stood before trustees to ask for an emergency resolution for $5,000 to pay for repairs of a fire engine because the main engine and the back up both were out of service. The department borrowed an engine from another department until it was repaired.
Fields again approached trustees Oct. 17 for their approval of $455,403 to purchase a 2016 pumper fire engine from the Sutphen Corporation to replace the current 1998 engine at Station 322 on Sawmill Parkway.
Fields was selected as interim chief Oct. 3 after former Chief Tim Jensen and trustees mutually agreed on a transfer from fire chief to fire prevention lieutenant in a resolution approved unanimously by trustees on Sept. 6.
The transfer was part of an agreement to drop all charges and bring an end to the disciplinary hearing brought against Jensen last year by trustees charging him with misconduct.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.