After nearly three years as interim chief, and after more than 30 years with the Gloucester Fire Department, Philip Dench will officially retire next Tuesday, on his 65th birthday.
And today, city officials are hosting an open public reception in his honor in City Hall offices, with residents welcome to attend the salute from 4 to 6 p.m.
Dench, whose retirement date is essentially mandated by the state's Civil Service guidelines, was the department's most senior deputy when he was named interim chief by then-first term Mayor Carolyn Kirk and took the department's reins from Barry McKay in March 2009.
As Dench steps aside, the city is still in the process of naming a permanent chief to serve as his and McKay's successor. Municipal Resources Inc. of New Hampshire, the city's hired consultant to play a lead role in the search, has narrowed the field of more than 40 applicants to 20; that field will then be narrowed to up to seven finalists, with public interviews and decisions by the local search committee and mayor to follow.
Kirk, meanwhile, has named current Deputy Chief Steve Aiello to serve as acting chief for up to three months after Dench steps aside. Aiello officially begins serving as acting chief on Monday.