BELFAST — City councilors approved hiring several new city employees and appointed Patrick Richards to succeed his grandfather, James Richards, as fire chief at their Sept. 7 meeting.

The city hired the younger Richards as deputy fire chief April 6 while his grandfather was still chief. James retired as chief earlier in September after 53 years with the department, according to City Manager Erin Herbig.

“Clearly they are very big shoes to fill; perhaps Patrick knows this better than anyone,” she said. “… The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree and I am confident that Patrick Richards will serve us well as city of Belfast fire chief for decades to come.”

Councilors congratulated Patrick Richards while sharing stories about James’ first week on the job and sentiments about the elder Richards’ service to the city over the years.

The new chief has been a lifelong resident of Belfast and has two high school-aged children who are active in the community and school sports, he said. He and his wife own and operate Richards’ Maple Products every spring in Belfast. “It’s such an honor to be able to take this position and thank you,” he said.

Patrick Richards has been a paid volunteer firefighter and EMT with the department for 21 years, according to Herbig. Previously, he worked as a career firefighter and EMT in Bangor for six years, and before that for the Belfast Water District as a water system operator for 10 years. He has several certificates and licenses related to his work as a firefighter and paramedic.

Councilors wished the new chief good luck and thanked him for stepping up to the position. “It’s pretty amazing to follow in the footsteps of Jim Richards. I can barely talk about the guy without choking up,” City Councilor Mike Hurley said.

Councilor Mary Mortier discussed the trouble many small fire stations have finding members who stay close to the community and are available to respond to calls in a timely manner. Belfast is a shire town in the county and might have to assist smaller communities more often because of their difficulty in finding volunteers. She thinks it will be one of Richards’ biggest challenges running the department.

“Times have changed over the last 20 or so years,” she said. “We now have people in smaller rural communities who are commuting to work in other towns and they’re not at their home, bedroom community, during the day; they’re somewhere else. And it’s really causing a challenge to fire departments, ambulance departments, in terms of staffing.”

Councilors also nominated Elizabeth Burnett to fill the vacant one-year Regional School Unit 71 Board of Directors seat left vacant after Charlie Grey resigned. She will fill the position only for about six weeks until the seat, for which she is currently running unopposed, is up for election.

Lottie Rolfe was hired as the new transfer station manager. She worked as a nurse for more than 20 years and became tired of dealing with things going on in hospitals currently, so she decided to apply for the position, she said. She grew up in Belfast and described herself as friendly and good with people.

She is already thinking about ways to expand services the transfer station offers by looking into recycling Styrofoam, among other ideas she might have once she starts working, she said. “I think there’s some things that we need to look forward to in recycling and stuff like that,” she said.

The city also hired Brian Friel as its new deputy harbormaster. Harbormaster Kathy Given said it has been the busiest summer on the harbor since she started working for the city 27 years ago. She expects future years to be even busier.

Friel is a former OSHA inspector and will also be working in the Planning and Codes Department doing some inspections for a few hours during the week, Herbig said. Mayor Eric Sanders said Friel has a “myriad of talents” that he did not know about.

Kristi Osgood was hired as the new deputy clerk. She was born and raised in Belfast and went to high school with City Councilor Brenda Bonneville’s daughter. She has volunteered and worked in Belfast for several years, City Clerk Amy Flood said.

“She had an excellent interview. We didn’t really have to ask her too many questions, she just kind of shared very well her personality and what she’s looking for,” Flood said. “And I feel like (she’s) going to fit very well in our office.”