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TOWNSEND -- Fire Chief Donald Klein will be retiring in March after more than 40 years of service to the Townsend Fire Department and seven years as chief.

By Massachusetts statute, fire chiefs are required to retire by their 65th birthday. Chief Klein, who turns 65 on March 27, will be leaving the position by the end of that month.

"It has been a distinct privilege to serve this town," Klein said. "When I first got on the department, I had no ambition or foresight to think I would ever be the fire chief. To be able to lead this department into the future has been a real reward, and I hope I've served the people of Townsend well."

Klein joined the Townsend Fire Department in 1970, and became the fire chief in 2007.

Selectmen are planning to establish a screening committee in the coming months to find Klein's replacement.

The committee should include either the police chief or deputy chief, two firefighters, a few members of town staff, and a citizen-at-large, Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan said at the Sept. 24 Board of Selectmen meeting.

The selectmen will discuss the selection committee further Oct. 8.

Klein said he chose not to be a member of the committee.

"I wanted them to be able to go out and have a number of people across different departments and the general public to help find their next chief. I wanted that to be a free process," he said.

Although he has no set retirement plans, Klein said he hopes to travel with his wife, Beth, once she retires, and to continue work on a summer home they are building. In the meantime, he will take some time to relax.

Klein said he trusts that the department will be in good hands after he leaves.

"It's going to be kind of hard to leave, but I'm turning the department over to a well-trained, great bunch of people, and I have no fears that the department is going to fall apart with my departure," he said.

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