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New London — Longtime city firefighter Henry Kydd stood in front of more than 100 family members, friends and fellow firefighters who clapped and cheered outside fire headquarters Friday as Kydd was sworn in as deputy chief.
"We've come a long way, haven't we?" Kydd said when he addressed the crowd.
Kydd is the first to hold the position since 2004 and the city's first minority deputy chief.
"We have a strong fire department in the City of New London and today it only got stronger," Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio told the assembled crowd on a sun-splashed spring day.
After Finizio conducted the swearing in, Kydd's two young grandchildren pinned his new badge onto his chest.
Flanked by Fire Chief Ronald Samul, mayoral staff members and city councilors, Kydd thanked his family, fellow firefighters and members of the community.
"We've got a great bunch of guys," Kydd said of the department he's served for 33 years. "Any of these guys could be standing here right now, that's how much they mean to the department."
Samul, himself a 41-year veteran and chief for the last 27 years, said Kydd will report directly to the mayor, "just as I do."
"He's come up from the ranks and has done everything required to earn this most prestigious position in the fire department," Samul said.
Samul will retire in April 2013. Finizio said reinstating the deputy chief position was a priority for his administration. When the City Council recently voted to fund the position, both Kydd and Battalion Chief Thomas Curcio, a 28-year-veteran, applied for the job.
"The chief must have had a hard time," said City Councilor Wade Hyslop, who serves as the council's public safety liaison, as he spoke about the "A-1 fire department in New London."
Kydd's parents, Rose and Henry Kydd, sat front and center during the ceremony. Afterward, Rose Kydd grinned as she spoke of her son. "This is history and I'm so proud," she said. "Not just because he's my son, but as a woman of color, he's everyone's son."
In interviews earlier this week, friends, colleagues and family members spoke glowingly of Kydd.
Firefighter Rocco Basilica, the department's union president, said he grew up with the Kydd family. "I went to a Van Halen concert with his brother in 1983," Basilica said, laughing.
Kydd is an "excellent family man," Basilica added, which helps make the best firefighters.
"Every day we walk out the door, we leave our families. And he's done that for 30-plus years," Basilica said. "He's done all the jobs and understands what the first level is, up to the very top level."
Firefighter Michael Passero, a 28-year department veteran and current City Council president, said Kydd "has been one of the great people to really work with."
"He's just a very steady, calm, effective leader, which is something we really need in the fire department when things can go from very sedate to a crisis mode in an instant," Passero said. "He's a great leader in an emergency or just around the firehouse.
"The promotion is well-deserved."