The Seymour Board of Selectmen voted Tuesday to name Timm Willis the town’s new Fire Marshal.
Willis, 35, a Seymour native and 2001 graduate of Seymour High School, has been the town’s deputy fire marshal for almost a decade.
His appointment is effective March 29.
Willis is replacing Paul Wetowitz, who is retiring after 19 years as fire marshal, according to The New Haven Register.
Willis credited Wetowitz for being a good manager and teacher, one who knew how give a deputy fire marshal room to learn while not allowing him to go off track.
In addition to investigating the cause and origin of fires, a fire marshal conducts inspections of buildings and multi-family houses (two-family and up). The office also works with the town’s building official to review plans for new construction.
“But my favorite thing is public education,” Willis said. “We get to talk to little kids about fire prevention. We also go to nursing homes, businesses and other facilities to do fire extinguisher training, exit drills in the home, things like that.”
His involvement with the Seymour Fire Department stretches back to 1997, when he joined the Seymour Junior Fire Department at age 14.
Current fire department Chief Michael Lombardi was a junior member then along with Willis. Current Seymour ambulance chief Kyle Kelley was a junior, too, but a few years behind Willis and Lombardi.
“Any type of public service — fire police, EMS — you have to want to do it. You have to enjoy it,” Willis said. “My father (Ed Willis) has been a volunteer since the mid 70s, and my older brother was very involved in Seymour Fire Department and Seymour EMS, too.”
That brother, Chris, passed away from cancer in April 2002 (his mom, Jody, passed away in 2014).
Chris was just 24 years old when he died. Timm was 18 at the time. The two were just reaching the age when they started to have common interests, and were entering into that sibling phase where they we not just brothers, but friends.
“We both in the fire department. We were both listening to the same music. We were going out together,” he said. Chris went to Timm’s first call as a volunteer firefighter. “At least I was able to spend some time with my brother where we were friends,” Willis said.
He remembers the town rallying around Chris in his time of need. His brother once responded to a rollover crash where a vehicle ended up partially submerged. Chris jumped in and held a woman’s head above the surface so that she would not drown while waiting for other responders to get to the scene get the trapped woman out.
“When he got sick with cancer, that woman actually came back and helped with fundraising,” Willis said.
Willis and his wife, Erin, have been married for two years. She’s an emergency dispatcher. They live in Seymour, and Willis wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I always say (Seymour) is small-town USA. There’s something to said for small-town USA. A town is just a geographical location. Seymour is people and places. It’s a community.”
Seymour First Selectman Kurt Miller said Willis has a solid reputation in town.
“People see him as very hard working and dedicated. He is also very approachable and easy to work with,” Miller said in an email. “I’ve had the chance to watch him grow into the position over the last 7 years. He is really going to be an asset in this position and will continue to move the department forward.”
Stephan Behuniak, a member of the Seymour Board of Selectmen, said Willis is a natural choice to replace Wetowitz as fire marshal.
“I’ve never heard a bad word about him. He is a very high character individual and puts a strong emphasis on education rather than punishment,” Behuniak said in an email. “We are so fortunate that someone like Timm, who has a ton of experience and know how, has chosen to put his roots down in his hometown.”
The starting salary for the fire marshal’s position is $72,967.
Willis was recommended to replace Wetowitz by the town’s fire commission.
The Seymour Fire Marshal’s Office has two full-time positions: Fire Marshal and Deputy Fire Marshal. There are also five volunteer fire inspectors, who hold the same certifications as the paid marshals.
The search for a person to replace Willis as deputy fire marshal is underway.