EAST PROVIDENCE — In a phone conversation Friday afternoon, Dec. 21, East Providence Fire Department Chief Joseph Klucznik confirmed he has submitted his resignation papers and will relinquish his position as of Dec. 30, 2012.
“I had no choice,” Chief Klucznik said. “I’m finally doing what’s best for me and my family.”
Chief Klucznik cited outstanding contract issues pertaining to his current compensation, his pension and medical coverage as the reasons why he chose to leave his post, which he has held for the last six-and-a-half years. Chief Klucznik has been a member of the EPFD for just under 26 years. He submitted his resignation to City Manager Peter Graczykowski during a break in the Dec. 18 City Council meeting at City Hall.
“My back was to the wall. I basically had to decide whether to retire or not,” Chief Klucznik said. “There were possible changes coming with my contract, my pension and benefits. A decision needed to made by the end of the year.”
As it stands, Chief Klucznik will cede command of the department as of 4 p.m. Dec. 30. Who takes over as interim chief is to be determined. Currently, the department has no designated second in command. Among the likely candidates are the four battalion chiefs and group of captains. Chief Klucznik said he was unaware of the line of succession.
The chief was aware of the emotional toll the decision made on him personally.
“I feel like my heart is being ripped away from the East Providence Fire Department,” he said.
“It’s definitely bittersweet, but for the first time in my professional life I’m putting my family first,” he continued. “We have a state-of-the-art training facility going up and we have the station renovations going on. I feel like I’m abandoning the department, but I really didn’t have a choice.”
Chief Klucznik said, regrettably, in the past he’s chosen his duties over his family. His first wife, Emily, battled serious health issues before passing away. During that time, he tried to balance work with family, including his then two teen-aged children.
Upon remarriage, the chief said he again fell into the rut of work and home, finding he was devoting too much of his energy towards his job and neglecting his relationship with his new wife.
“I haven’t had dinner with my wife in months,” Chief Klucznik said. “This is the lady who picked me up from the lowest point in my life. I didn’t have a life. Karen saved my life.”
Facing long-standing contractual issues that hadn’t been addressed, the chief ultimately determined he would make the decision about his status rather than having someone else do it for him.
“The time has come for me to leave,” Chief Klucznik concluded. “That’s why I’m bowing out now.”