Billings council gives unanimous support to appointment of new fire chief

Township of Billings

KAGAWONG – Billings council has given its unanimous support in appointing Martin Connell as the new fire chief for the township.

“I think Martin will be an awesome fire chief,” stated Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack at a council meeting held in December. “I wish him well in his endeavours and look forward to working with him.”

“Martin was enthusiastic as a firefighter and I agree, he will be a great fire chief,” said Councillor Michael Hunt. 

Billings Mayor Ian Anderson said, “I would like to add my congratulations to Martin. He is very well respected, and a knowledgeable member of the firefighting crew. I’m looking forward to working with him as council.”

As was reported in late November, former fire chief Merv Gilchrist had announced his resignation and staff were directed to advertise internally to fill the position. The internal application window closed and interviews were held on December 16 by the CAO/clerk and mayor. The recommendation had been made to council to authorize the CAO/clerk to appoint Mr. Connell as fire chief for the Township of Billings.”

“It’s official now, I was appointed to the position on December 23, 2020 by CAO/clerk Kathy McDonald after the most recent council meeting,” Mr. Connell told the Recorder. “As you probably know, I’ve lived in Kagawong for most of my life. I started volunteering on the Billings Fire Department 17 years ago. I never had much ambition of being a firefighter growing up.”

He explained, “my brother-in-law Rob Seifried, who had been a long-time member of the fire department back in the day, suggested to me that I should volunteer. It turns out that it was a natural fit and I never looked back. Perhaps running the fire truck for the first time with lights and siren had me hooked. After all, isn’t that every kid’s dream? I guess I’m still a big kid at heart.”
“In all seriousness, Kagawong has blessed me with a wonderful place to grow up and live. Volunteering is how I like to give back to my community,” said Mr. Connell.  He noted, “Kagawong volunteers are truly a great bunch of people. We have some of the most dedicated volunteers around. Our fire department is very fortunate to have a wonderful group of dedicated volunteers that will drop everything to help people in need regardless of weather, day or night. Our camaraderie is quite unique. Everyone is friendly and very welcoming. It’s just a big family to me.”

“Upon receiving the sad news of Fire Chief Merv Gilchrist’s resignation, due to health issues, we were left wondering who will fill the position,” said Mr. Connell. “After some later discussion within our department, I decided to apply with the support of the firefighters. I previously held the position of deputy captain for some time.”

Mr. Connell added, “as fire chief, I wish to continue the tradition of community and service that our previous fire chief, Merv Gilchrist, has instilled in our department. My main priorities will always be fire safety and prevention, maintaining our current level of service for those who call upon the fire department in times of need while making sure every firefighter comes home safely and maintaining the bonds of family within the department itself.”