When Stephen Archer took the oath of office last week at Lynn City Hall as the new chief of the city’s Fire Department, history and insurance rates for property owners were some of the issues on his mind.
“It’s a huge honor to be able to serve this city as fire chief,’’ said Archer, a Lynn Technical High School graduate and Lynn homeowner. “It’s a very, very proud moment for me. It’s an honor, and I don’t take it for granted. It’s a big responsibility.”
His selection by Mayor Thomas M. McGee is also historic, as Archer becomes the first African-American to lead the department, which provides both firefighting and emergency medical services in the city of some 93,000 people, making him the fourth person of color to currently lead a fire department in Massachusetts.
“From a personal standpoint, it’s not something that I usually focus on,’’ he said of his ancestry. “But I do understand that it can have a significant impact on young people of color in the city, the fact that they will have a fire chief that they can identify with.”
Archer credits the African-Americans who integrated the force in the 1970s for setting the high professional and personal standards that he had to meet during his 25-year career, something that helped set the stage for his selection as the department’s leader.
He said he hopes to see the department become more diversified on his watch and hopes that his high-profile post will “let young men and women of color know that there are job opportunities out there.”
During a telephone interview, Archer outlined an ambitious agenda and a major goal for his leadership and the department as a whole. Through investment in equipment, improved training, and improved internal operations, Archer wants to see the city’s rating from the insurance industry improve to level 2, up from the current level 3.
“It means we are improving our operations, improving the way we serve the city,” Archer said. “It will serve as a benchmark on how we are doing as a fire department.”
The rating is used by the insurance industry to set how much they charge property owners for coverage, he said.
“There are some things we can do without any extra outlay involved, but there are parts of it where the bean counters at City Hall need to cooperate with us,’’ Archer said, pointing to the need for refurbishing or replacing fire apparatus in coming years. “It’s a little of both.”
McGee said underlying his selection of Archer as the new chief was his professional competence and his record of having worked his way up to the higher levels of leadership over the past several years.
“He’s been a great firefighter. He’s been a real leader on the force,’’ McGee said. “I just think that he is respected by all the other members of the force because they know he’s a real leader.”
“He’s a great guy, and he’s the right guy for the job,” McGee said. “He was an easy choice. He is going to prove himself over and over again.”John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.