John Rankin Appointed Chief Fire Marshal

John Rankin, who has been promoted to chief fire marshal for the Town of Southampton. Independent/Taylor K. Vecsey

Southampton Town Board members unanimously approved to appoint John Rankin to chief fire marshal, effective June 1.

The May 26 move to promote the 35-year Public Safety and Fire Prevention Department veteran from fire marshal followed a lengthy interview process and the May 1 retirement of the previous chief, Cheryl Kraft.

“I feel really good. We have a good office here with good staff. We collaborate on a lot of stuff and it’s just going to continue,” Rankin said. “This is not a one-person operation. You’ve got to have support from your staff and be able to build on different ideas.”

The move also comes with recommendation from Public Safety Emergency Management Administrator Ryan Murphy, who said the office had “two excellent candidates” within the department that applied for the position.

“We are fortunate to have such a skilled and professional bunch of guys that are working for us in the Fire Marshal’s Office,” Murphy said. “John is an outstanding fire marshal and he’s very deserving of the promotion.”

“John has already demonstrated tremendous leadership, and even in the past few days, he’s demonstrated leadership in helping to arrange for some interdepartmental communication with regards to relief that we might be able to provide to some of the businesses to allow them to operate in new capacities or different ways in light of the circumstances that we currently find ourselves in,” Murphy continued. “He’s forward-thinking and he’ll do a fantastic job in the position. I have absolute confidence in him.”

Rankin joined the office part-time in 1985 and full-time a year later. He said he knew he wanted to get into his line of work following an accidental fire that resulted in the deaths of a mother and her two children on his block in Eastport back in the 1980s. He was a member of the fire department that responded to the incident.

“This office is not the type of office you can sit and run it from the desk. . . you’ve got to be out in the field,” Rankin said. “You’ve got to be able to see people. You’’ve got to be able to talk to the people.”

In January 2018, Rankin, a member of the Eastport Fire Department since 1976, was elected assistant chief.

“He’s an experienced firefighter and chief,” said Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, the town board’s Public Safety Committee and fire protection liaison. “He’s integrated into the fire service community in Suffolk County and on the East End, and he really is a great pick for this job. It’s a very effective department, and he’ll do a fine job leading it.”

According to Section 65 of the Civil Service Law, provisional appointment can be authorized when the eligible list contains the names of fewer than three candidates who are willing to accept the position. Rankin will fill the vacated position subject to all applicable Civil Service requirements. The position is already fully funded in the 2020 adopted budget.

“I certainly have full faith and confidence than John Rankin will do a great job as chief fire marshal,” said Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. “He’s doing a great job over there.”

Town attorney Jim Burke, who oversaw the hiring, also said the promotion was “terrific.”

“I think he’s a great leader. I think he’s very, very dedicated. He’s obviously an individual that gives his all to his community, both volunteering at Eastport Fire Department and what he does for the town,” Burke said. “I’ve seen him in action, and he’s a tremendous leader. People listen to him — he commands respect — and I think he’s going to be a terrific chief fire marshal.”

Taylor K. Vecsey contributed reporting.

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