March 23, 2017 06:28PM
By Jason Vallee
Sun staff writer
WESTERLY — After 12½ years at the helm, Michael Frink is stepping down as chief of the Dunn’s Corners Fire Department.
The lifelong Westerly resident, who has served 30 years with the department, announced his intent to resign from the department earlier this month. He is expected to stay on at least in the short term to assist in the transition process.
Frink said it was a tough decision and one he made only after long discussions with his wife, Heather, and after speaking at length with his crew of volunteer firefighters.
“I have poured my heart and soul into this department for the past 12½ years now. It has been my number one priority for the past decade, even over my family and health, and it’s time for me to step back and put my family and my needs first,” Frink said. “It was something I took a long, hard look at before coming to a decision.”
Frink, 46, joined the Dunn’s Corners Fire Department as a 16-year-old student and has served the department in numerous capacities since, rising to the rank of chief in 2004. He remained in that role as the department continued to grow and was hired as the department’s first full-time paid chief in 2008.
Matthew Thomsen, moderator for the operating committee of the Dunn’s Corners Fire Department, said in a press release announcing Frink’s decision that Frink has long provided strong leadership to the department and will be missed.
“He will stay on as chief for a period of time to assist with the transition to new leadership,” Thomsen said. “The district and the department have both made strong progress under Chief Frink’s leadership and the operating committee hopes that he will stay on with the department in some capacity to share the wealth of knowledge he has gained over the years.”
The department will conduct a search for a new chief and will seek both internal and external applicants, officials said. The chief role is listed in this year’s budget as a paid salary position with an estimated annual income of $108,000. A full-time firefighter position, one of three total paid positions with the department, is also vacant and has remained open since late last year. It was unclear if or when that position would be filled.
In recent years, Frink has been instrumental in helping to expand the department. Fellow fire officials said he played an important role in the department recently graduating a class of 11 new volunteers ready to serve in a full capacity with the department.
During his time with the department, Frink also served as president of the Rhode Island Association of Fire Chiefs executive board in 2014-15, as well as serving the state association in several other roles over the years. Frink said one of his proudest accomplishments with the organization was being able to establish and unveil a media campaign aimed at improving volunteer ranks across the state.
For Frink, the hardest part of the decision was walking away from a lifetime of work and leaving behind a community that has felt like family for three decades. He said he will remain as a firefighter in a volunteer capacity and does not plan on moving away anytime soon.
Frink and his wife have a college-aged daughter, Brittany, and their son, Austin, is a junior at Westerly High School. Frink said that it was time for a change, one which would allow him to dedicate more time to his family and to himself.
“Being a fire chief is a 24-7, 365-day-per-year job,” Frink said. “It’s very demanding and there is a lot to this that people don’t understand. I told my guys all the same thing, which is that I needed to look at things with a new perspective. I couldn’t have done this alone and I am privileged to have worked with many great volunteers, but it is time to step back and look at what other opportunities life may bring.”