I want to share a brief personal reflection on retiring Bristol Fire Chief Paul Leeman Jr.
I first met Paul when I was a teenager. My mother and Paul’s wife worked together at the Weymouth House, a home for boys in Bristol. I met Paul at a gathering there. I still remember how warm and friendly he was and how interested he seemed in me, a kid he had just met. I have continued to observe this over the years: He takes an interest in people. He cares, especially about the people in his community.
Later I got to know Paul a little better as a reporter covering the town of Bristol. Paul is one of the most accessible public officials in Lincoln County — quick to respond, patient with questions, thorough with answers. He charms every reporter who has the pleasure of interviewing him. But I never had the impression that he wanted to see his name in the paper: He wants the community to have an accurate and complete understanding of fire department business, whether a budget matter or an emergency response.
Then I moved to Bristol and got involved with the budget committee and school committee. Here I noticed something else about Paul. A gentle, kind, and patient man, only one thing seems to raise his hackles: safety. He prioritizes the safety of his firefighters and first responders, as well as the safety of the community and its children, above all else.
A chef and former restaurateur, Paul also makes a delicious seafood chowder, as I learned at a meeting in New Harbor several years ago. He seems to do nothing half-heartedly.
So I want to add my voice and the newspaper’s voice to all the other voices wishing Chief Leeman well in retirement. Congratulations to a man who has dedicated his entire adult life to our community. I cannot think of anyone who deserves a happy retirement more. Thank you for your service.