OCEAN CITY — After an extensive, months-long search and interview process, resort officials announced the hiring of a longtime Montgomery County and Fairfax County, Va. fire chief as the new chief of the Ocean City Fire Department.
Earlier this year, Ocean City Fire Chief Chris Larmore announced his retirement after nearly 11 years as chief and over three decades with the town’s fire department. Larmore’s retirement became effective at the end of March, touching off an extensive search for his replacement.
On Tuesday, the Mayor and Council announced the process has been completed with the hiring of longtime Montgomery County firefighter Richie Bowers, who has served at different times as the fire chief in Montgomery County and also in Fairfax County, Va.
Bowers had been a member of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service for 34 years, serving in every career rank from firefighter/EMT to ultimately fire chief. Bowers also served on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue Maryland Task Force I team since its inception and has been on several deployments in that role including the Oklahoma City bombing and the 9-11 Pentagon terrorist attack.
He was also the Montgomery County Operational Task Force leader during its deployment to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Most recently, Bowers served as fire chief in Fairfax County, Va., a position he held for five years before resigning in February.
City Manager Doug Miller said recently staff had concluded a lengthy process to replace Larmore and that he had submitted a recommendation to the Mayor and Council for Bowers as the successful candidate. Before approving the recommendation, the Mayor and Council wanted to meet Bowers before confirming him as Ocean City’s new fire chief and that meeting took place in a closed session on Tuesday.
Miller said the town received over 70 applications from all over the country for the vacant fire chief position. During the process, four internal candidates were interviewed along with six external candidates including Bowers. Miller said the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company was involved in the process, from helping develop a profile for the new chief to helping narrow the list of candidates to interview to actually sitting on the interview panel.
Larmore was hired as fire chief in 2008 during a turbulent time when the town of Ocean City combined its career paid division and its volunteer division and had led the department for over a decade. Serving as the merged department’s first chief, Larmore oversaw the various divisions including the career division, the volunteer division and the fire marshal’s office.
Bowers’ hiring was approved in the council chambers packed with fire department officials decked out in their dress blues. Miller explained the vetting process and how he arrived at the recommendation to hire Bowers.
“It was a multi-step interview process with a very diverse group on the panel including two representatives from the volunteer fire company,” he said. “It was a very good group that each brought different perspectives to the table.”
Mayor Rick Meehan then officially swore in Bowers.
“This is a great showing from our fire department, which is welcoming you to the department,” he said. “This is only the second chief we’ve ever had with the combined departments and sometimes the second is most important. Public safety continues to be our top priority and this hire provides continuity for that.”
For his part, Bowers seemed humbled by the big turnout from his new charges and praised the nomination process.
“I just want to thank you for this opportunity and it was a great process,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do. I don’t want to spend a lot of time speaking, but a lot of time doing.”
For his command staff and crews, Bowers had one simple directive and promised to roll up his sleeves and get to work.
“Let’s work together to make this great department even better,” he said. “My only advice is just do your J.O.B.”