New London — Veteran New London firefighter Henry E. Kydd Jr. took over Monday as fire chief in the department's first change of command ceremony in more than a quarter century.
Kydd, the department's first black chief, was officially sworn in by Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio outside the department's Bank Street station.
Finizio said he has encountered a litany of tough decisions since taking office in New London, but "selecting a new chief was not one of them." Finizio had appointed Kydd, a former battalion chief, to the rank of deputy chief last year when longtime Fire Chief Ronald Samul announced his retirement.
Kydd fought back tears in a short address to a gathering of firefighters, area fire chiefs and family that included his parents, wife, children and grandchildren.
"I'd like to take a moment and bask," Kydd said. "I'm not a very prideful person but I'm very proud of this."
After Kydd's badge was pinned to his uniform by his wife, Pamela, the two shared a hug. Kydd thanked his family for missed birthdays and late night calls into work, the fate of every firefighter.
"They've sacrificed as much as I have," Kydd said.
Samul handed Kydd the chief's helmet shield, a ceremonial move since Kydd has been running the department since October when he was named acting chief.
Samul said Kydd was well equipped to lead the department having served in nearly ever position since starting his career in 1978.
"We've worked together for over 30 years," Samul said of Kydd. "He's well-trained. He has the skills to be chief and has a good support system in his family and the firefighters here. I have every confidence in him."
Samul, a 43-year veteran of the department who joined on April 1, 1970, and served as chief since 1985, joked that he planned to become a man of leisure.
Kydd said he looked forward to getting the "roller coaster," of the past year behind the department and moving forward.
The department went through budget struggles and looming layoffs along with controversy surrounding the hiring, firing, and rehiring of black firefighter Al Mayo.
Kydd said he first became a firefighter at a time when the New London Fire Department was recruiting minorities. He envisioned the job as a stepping stone to a career as a teacher but "caught the bug," and firefighting became his life.
Attendants left Monday's ceremony to the hum of bagpipes on their way to the Hot Rod Café for a celebration.