, Gloucester, MA

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June 23, 2007

New man in change at Coast Guard station

The Coast Guard's Gloucester station has a new chief warrant officer.

Chris Sparkman was named yesterday to the top spot, taking over from Gene Gibson, who after three years of service is being transferred to Fort Myers, Fla.

The "change of command" ceremony was held yesterday morning at the Harbor Loop station in front of local dignitaries.

"I will miss the people and the community," Gibson said. "The Coast Guard is always welcome here."

Gibson was awarded several accolades, plaques and a trophy of "The Man at the Wheel" for his services at the Gloucester Station during the ceremony. Gibson, his wife, Jessica, and their three sons, Shea, Evan and Colin, survived the wild winters of New England and are on their way back to Florida.

In 2001, Gibson served as senior boat coxswain and boarding officer at Coast Guard Station Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Although the family is headed to a warmer climate, Gibson will certainly miss Gloucester, he said.

"There's just something special about this fishing town," Gibson said. "... They've always treated us as a part of the community, and you don't get that everywhere. It's something special."

The new Gloucester commander, Sparkman, was reassigned from Coast Guard Station Depoe Bay, Ore. Throughout his Coast Guard career, Sparkman has been assigned to small-boat stations, including Gloucester. The local station is composed of four vessels - two 47-footers and two 25-footers - and has 41 regular and 20 reserve members.

"It's just like coming home," Sparkman said.

Sparkman described Depoe Bay as the "world's smallest harbor," which is certainly different from Gloucester's. Because of the difference in size, Sparkman is excited about the "operational tempo" of his new position.

"I'm going from one extreme to another," Sparkman said.

He wants to be "very engaged with the fishermen" and is looking forward to working with the city.

"I love working with the town," Sparkman said. "I'm glad to see that happens here."

The city of Gloucester has always worked closely with the Coast Guard. State Rep. Anthony Verga, D-Gloucester, who was present for yesterday's ceremony, emphasized the importance of the Coast Guard in the Gloucester community.

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