Senior personnel changes are underway in Oak Bluffs, with the longtime town clerk retiring and a new acting fire chief in place.
Town clerk Deborah deBettencourt Ratcliff, who has worked for the office for 25 years and served as town clerk since 1997, announced her retirement this week. Her last day will be June 30.
The selectmen accepted her retirement with regret at their meeting Tuesday, and appointed assistant town clerk Laura Johnston as the acting town clerk.
Ms. Johnston has been with the clerk’s office for 17 years.
“It’s just time,” Ms. Ratcliff told the Gazette Wednesday. “Summer’s a quiet time for a clerk, so it gives Laura time to adjust to the post.”
“I’ll be down the road,” she said, adding that she hoped to do some traveling. “I love the job, but I can’t be here forever.” Her last election as town clerk will be the June 25 U.S. Senate special election.
“We are sorry to lose you, Deb,” selectman and board chairman Walter Vail said.
“I just want to thank you for all your years of dedicated service,” selectman Gail Barmakian said. “You made that office a pleasant place and an efficient place.”
The selectmen Tuesday also voted to name John Rose as acting fire chief. He will replace Peter Forend, who has resigned.
Mr. Rose, the current EMS chief and assistant fire chief, was chosen among three applicants. Peter Martell and Jimmy Moreis were also interviewed by the selectmen.
“I wish I could appoint three acting fire chiefs,” selectman Kathy Burton said, calling it a “very difficult decision . . . I had to do the best I could to consider the person most appropriate for the job right now.”
“Every candidate came up with the same solutions,” selectman Michael Santoro said, noting that themes included improving morale, working together, bringing back integrity to the department, and more training. He said Mr. Rose is already showing leadership qualities in his temporary job as acting chief.
“I think it’s only natural that we move forward,” he said.
“Every one of the candidates had that same dedication and care for the department,” selectman Gail Barmakian said. “When I walked out I asked if we could appoint assistants.”
Mr. Vail said the acting chief will be in place for an indefinite period of time, while the town works toward appointing a permanent fire chief. He said he hoped the process would be done by the end of the year.
“I hope whoever is the new acting chief will reach out to the other two and ask for their help in bringing the fire department together,” he added. After the announcement, the candidates shook hands.