Unswayed By Pushback, Cranson Prepares To Lead Nantucket Fire Department

Jason Graziadei •


Nantucket’s new fire chief Michael Cranson watched the fireworks at last week’s Select Board meeting live from his home in Rhode Island. The televised acrimony did not change his mind.

Cranson’s new three-year contract with the town of Nantucket was approved on a 3-1 vote despite significant pushback from community members and some of the very firefighters who Cranson will be leading when he starts as fire chief on Oct. 1.

While he acknowledged the dynamics of the situation he’s walking into, Cranson said he was not deterred by the hard feelings on display during last week’s meeting.

“There’s some controversy surrounding everything,” Cranson told the Current. “I’m going to do my best to go in there and see what we have going on in the department and come up with a plan with the help of the firefighters on the department. We’re not going to be successful unless we’re all working together. I’m looking forward to it.”

Reached by phone two days after the intense Select Board meeting, Cranson seemed to be taking the harsh words in stride. The criticisms of both him and the search process that led to his hiring over current Nantucket Fire Department Deputy Chief Mitchell were not unexpected, he said.

Select Board member Dawn Hill Holdgate, the only person to vote against approving Cranson’s new contract, said she was worried he will not have the respect of the island firefighters, which could “cause a lot of problems.” But Cranson said passions running high is commonplace in the fire service.

“There’s passionate and committed people in the fire department, you can’t just buy that,” Cranson said. “The fact that we have such a great group of people will help the department move ahead. I’m not there right now. I don’t know the individual people who spoke. I’m really not prepared to comment on the meeting itself, other than I hope when I get there we can come to terms on focusing on the mission of the department and move it forward for the people on Nantucket. I wish I could say that was unusual, but it’s not. Especially in the fire service. People are in the fire service because they’re passionate. Whether or not it’s accurate or not, the passion that’s there is good.”

Cranson said he had already spoken to a couple of people within the department to start preparing for his arrival, and is working out the logistics of moving his family out to the island.

“I’m very excited,” he said.

Cranson, 50, has been in the fire service since he was a teenager, and retired as the fire chief in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, in May 2018 after 27 years with the department.

With current Nantucket Fire Department Chief Steve Murphy planning to retire at the end of the month, the town has hired an interim fire chief to bridge the gap between Murphy's retirement and Cranson’s start date. Martin Greene, the former Bourne fire chief who recently served as interim chief for Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard. Will take over leadership of the department for the two-month period between Murphy and Cranson. The town’s contract with Greene will pay him $600 per day, plus expenses.

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