Commentary on the retiring Hampton Fire Chief William "Skip" Sullivan

Return to Table of Contents

When The Good Guys Step Down

By Tom Donaldson, Atlantic News, December 18, 1998

[The following article is courtesy of the Atlantic News]

After 32 years in the fire service Hampton Fire Chief William "Skip" Sullivan will be hanging up his boots. January 1, 1999 will be his first day of retirement. "It is a little scary," said Sullivan when asked what it would be like to get up in the morning and not go to the fire station where he has been the Chief since 1987. He admits to the fact that there are some things about the job that he will not miss, but he will miss the day to day contact with the people with whom he works.

The people with whom he works will miss Sullivan too. Every firefighter in the department speaks well of the chief and particularly about his work ethic. David Lang, local firefighter and head of the firefighter's local has said many times that it has been a pleasure working with "Skip" even at times when tough contract issues have be hammered out, Sullivan favors the men in the department.

Sullivan started in the Newburyport fire service as a part timer in 1961, coming to Hampton, full time in the spring of 1968 under Chief Paul Long who was in the process of re-building the department. Long was a good teacher and Sullivan was made a lieutenant and then a captain under him. One of the most difficult times came, according to Sullivan, in 1972 when the Hampton volunteer ambulance squad resigned en masse. The fire department took over and had it's first call within 24 hours. With the support of the town and his men, he built the excellent paramedic squad that we now have in the town. He takes great pride that very firefighter is an EMT (emergency medical technician) and there are eight paramedics, enough to have two available on each shift. That service responded to 1,396 calls from October to September last year.

In 1977 Claremont hired Sullivan away and he served there for five years as chief. He served another five years as chief in Bedford, Massachusetts and came back to Hampton and the corner office in the beach station where he can often be found at 7 A.M. or 10 P.M. From his office he has spotted several fires that could have been potential disasters in the beach precinct's dried out houses and summer cottages. Many times he is first on the scene and his worst nightmare is a serious fire there during the summer season.

As a captain in the 70's he helped fight a 5 A.M. fire on Labor Day at Giovanni's restaurant and the Ocean Squire Motel at K street and Ocean Blvd. "The arrival scene will always be embedded in my mind," says the Chief. The fire which he says was probably arson had people jumping from windows and sliding down drain pipes to escape the fully engulfed buildings. "It may sound unusual," he says "but I feel fully comfortable standing in front of a serious fire scene." It may sound unusual, but it speaks to the truly dedicated highly trained well equipped fire fighter which Sullivan surely is.

What about retirement? More time with his family and particularly his three grandchildren (one on the way). More attention (hear this Charlotte) to a wife who has put up with the horrendous hours a firefighter spends over a career. He didn't mention the worries but you know that they are there too. There are some travel plans for the civil war buff who would like to start at Valley Forge and travel south to the various battle grounds and there will be more time for his winter hobby of building and collecting model trains. Have a question about railroading or the civil war, just ask Skip. "I wouldn't move away from Hampton, it is our home," Sullivan said "and, I am going to run for Selectman." (Yes, that is right, remember you read it here first!)

He says that the town has been good to him and his family and he would like to give something back in the way of service. He knows the town and the people and says the Town Manager is "the best," and he feels that he has something to give. Well, Skip, you have given us a lot in a career that you say "my only regret is that I can't do it all over again." And remember "Skip" as a Selectman you can't sit out there and tell us those outrageous jokes that make us laugh during the meetings. Police Chief Wrenn will surely miss that too.

Well, Hampton will hire a new fire chief and he will no doubt be a good one but he has very large boots to fill. Enjoy many happy years of retirement, Skip.

Return to Table of Contents