It never was as if Ocean City Fire Chief Chris Larmore was going to go into the 15th Street firehouse back in 2008 and call for a group hug. He wasn’t then and isn’t now that kind of person.
That’s just as well, considering that Ocean City’s fire and rescue services back then, both volunteer and paid, were going through one of the stormiest periods in their histories.
With the passage of time, much of that acrimony and conflict, to put it lightly, have faded in the public’s mind. Most people have forgotten the nastiness that prevailed before and after the merger of the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company and the paid Ocean City Fire Department.
Like Larmore or not, it should be said that a lesser individual would have run, not walked, from that post long ago. Warm and fuzzy he isn’t, but then again, a milquetoast chair-warmer chief wouldn’t have lasted a year, much less the 10 years that Larmore has served as head of the combined departments.
How he ran things and most of the decisions he made are known only internally. It’s a well-known fact, however, that union firefighters chafed under his command, as did, eventually, the volunteers. But all that is beside the point, considering the odds that a combined department would work were less than slim at the time of his appointment.
That, as in keeping this merged service intact and saving taxpayers millions of dollars by getting paid and unpaid firefighters to work together, is more important than whatever grievance or disagreement personnel might have raised during his tenure.
To be sure, Larmore didn’t accomplish the unified operational approach by himself. For the most part, he had the backing of the mayor and council, who deserve a great deal of credit for sticking with the program.
Larmore was the right man at the right time for the job, and the question now, as he heads out to build houses, is what kind of fire chief will the council select to replace him? Even in the best circumstances, the firehouse is a tough place populated by tough people. Keeping that in mind, the selection process will be interesting to watch.