Mayor says fire chief on medical leave, 'doing extremely well'

Cary Ashby • Sep 13, 2019 at 5:00 PM

Norwalk Fire Chief John Soisson is doing well while he remains on medical leave, Mayor Rob Duncan said. 

Soisson, who has been out since June 17, has worked for the department for 27 years. Named the chief in 2013, he makes almost $84,900 annually. Capt. Rick Perry is serving as the acting chief while Soisson recovers. 

“He is using his sick leave,” finance director Michelle Reeder, who confirmed Soisson is on paid leave.

When asked about Soisson’s condition, law director Stuart O’Hara declined to elaborate beyond saying he had a medical issue. For now, city officials don’t have a timetable for his possible return. 

“We are waiting for him, in consultation with his medical people, to see when he will be able to return to his full duties,” O’Hara said.

In the meantime, Norwalk city council is in the process of creating the position of assistant fire chief. Councilwoman Samantha Wilhelm, councilman Dave Wallace and president Steve Euton are sponsoring the legislation. O’Hara said the position will be unclassified and open to the captains and lieutenants in the department, and the selection won’t have to go through the civil service commission.

Due to the process of agreeing on, and the approval of, the legislation and selection process, Wilhelm has said the fire department won’t have an assistant fire chief until 2020.

Duncan was asked if Soisson’s medical leave prompted the legislation or if it was due to the department never having an assistant fire chief.

“I think it’s both. I think we’ve known for a while that the position (of chief) has a lot more responsibilities than it did before because of changes to laws and such,” Duncan said. “It also helps with the coverage.”

O’Hara agreed, saying Soisson’s medical incident partially prompted the legislation, but the chief also needs more assistance.

“Any chief needs more assistance,” O’Hara said.

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