Joseph E. Finn, a native of Dorchester who now lives in Quincy, has been tapped by Mayor Martin J. Walsh as the commissioner of the Boston Fire Department and given a mandate to create a department as diverse as the city it protects.
Finn said he would work to improve minority representation in the department through outreach programs to minority veterans and high school mentorship programs. In that way, he said, more individuals can “understand the benefits of becoming a Boston firefighter and that this is a welcoming and honorable profession.”
Finn earned plaudits in March for his work as incident commander at the fire that killed two firefighters in the Back Bay, a performance Walsh mentioned at a press conference on Monday announcing the appointment. The mayor said he was inspired by Finn’s leadership during the deadly fire and “could not have asked for a better job interview” for the commissioner position.
“He has dedicated his life to making the Boston Fire Department the best in the world. I have no doubt he is committed to making whatever reforms are needed to take this department to the next level,“ Walsh said.“ As we were reminded in March, the Boston Fire Department means the world to this city, to our safety and to our pride. We could entrust it to no better leader than Joe Finn.”
Over the next two weeks, Finn will re-formulate a command staff responsive to the findings of the O’Toole Commission, which identified issues of harassment and discrimination in the department, and the Shannon Report, which raised concerns about substance abuse in the ranks.
A 30-year member of the Fire Department, Finn was named deputy chief of personnel in 2001 to implement the O’Toole Commission’s recommendations in overseeing recruitment, selection, hiring, contract enforcement, employee assistance, and discipline. He has also served as a division commander, established an EMT training program, and worked on the mayor’s task force for integration of Boston Emergency Medical Services into the fire department. He was one of three finalists selected from a nationwide pool of candidates sought by the city.
“What I like about the commissioner is that we will have our disagreements with me as president of the union and him as the commissioner, but he’ll make sure everything gets straightened out,” said Richie Paris, president of Boston Firefighters Local 718. “Joe’s a dear friend and I wish him all the luck in the world. I know he’ll do a great job for the citizens of the city of Boston along with our firefighters and bring safety to our men and women. “
Finn, who will be formally sworn as both commissioner and fire chief in the near future, assuming responsibilities from interim commissioner/chief John Hasson, served in the Marine Corps before joining the department, and received a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Northeastern University in 2008.
At the press conference, Finn was flanked by members of his family, including his wife Susie, and two sons, one of whom, Brandon, is a former Marine and a firefighter. Finn’s other son, Sean, is currently serving in Afghanistan. They also have a daughter, Kelsey.
When asked by reporters about residency requirements, Walsh said Finn plans to move back into Boston. He has a year to do so under the city’s residency rules.