Amherst Fire Chief Boynton leaving for Townsend, Mass. post

AMHERST – The town will likely have to look for a new fire chief soon, as selectmen for the town of Townsend, Mass., voted last week to offer the position of Townsend Fire-EMS chief to Amherst Chief Mark Boynton.

According to the Lowell Sun, the Townsend selectmen voted unanimously Thursday, April 3, choosing Boynton over two other finalists.

Boynton, who is 45, worked for the Keene Fire Department for 20 years before coming to Amherst four years ago. In a press release from the town of Townsend last month, Boynton, who could not be reached at press time, said he wanted to work in a small town similar to Walpole, N.H., where his career began.

The Amherst department has six officers and 30 firefighters and Boynton and Deputy Chief of Prevention Matt Conley are the department’s only full-time firefighters, the rest are primarily “paid-on-call” volunteers who are only paid when they respond to emergencies.

A new Amherst chief will have several challenges.

According to the department’s strategic plan that Boynton prepared for selectmen this year, the Amherst Fire Department has slow response times, high turnover, staffing levels below national standards and a high frequency of fires.

Amherst selectmen are also faced with the task of finding a new town recreation director to replace Nancy McMillan who retired last month.

Townsend Selectmen’s Chairwoman Sue Lisio said she chose Boynton primarily for his prior experience as a fire chief, which included budgeting and overseeing a department made up of both full-time and on-call volunteer firefighters, like Townsend’s fire department, according to the Sun.

The three finalists were chosen by a screening committee that reviewed 24 applications for the opening to replace Chief Donald Klein, who retired last month.

The other finalists were Dracut, Mass. Fire Department Capt. Gregory Gagnon, and Ayer, Mass. Fire Department Capt. Timothy Johnston, who withdrew his name from consideration prior to the interviews.

Townsend is smaller than Amherst, with a population of about 9,000, compared to Amherst’s roughly 12,000.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at or 673-3100, ext. 304.