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City of Worcester Announces Retirement of Assistant City Manager Kathy Johnson, Fire Chief Michael Lavoie; Christopher Spencer Named New Commissioner of Inspectional Services

For Immediate Release: 8/20/2021 4:32 pm

City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. today announces the retirements of Assistant City Manager Kathleen G. Johnson and Fire Chief Michael J. Lavoie, each of whom has served the City of Worcester for 34 years.

In addition, the City of Worcester welcomes Christopher P. Spencer as its new Commissioner of Inspectional Services.

Johnson, who joined the City in 1987, has held positions in the Technical Services Department, Budget Office, and Treasurer and Collector’s Office, before being promoted to Director of Human Resources in 2004. There, she implemented a series of initiatives to improve employee relations, personnel systems, and employee benefits, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for both employees and taxpayers. In 2012, she was named Assistant City Manager to oversee city-wide operational and administrative functions, initiatives, and planning.

Johnson’s last day with the City is Oct. 1.

“It has been my privilege to serve the City of Worcester and its citizens,” she said. “I have been honored to work beside so many talented colleagues and hard-working, dedicated staff over the past 34 years. I want to especially thank City Manager Augustus for allowing me to play a small part in the large successes of his Administration.”

“Kathy has been a vital member of my Cabinet, wearing many hats during her tenure as Assistant City Manager. She has helped steer this City through some of its most challenging times, and has been one of my most trusted advisers, someone who always brings a sound approach to dealing with issues large and small,” Augustus said. “She will be dearly missed, and I wish her all the best in retirement.”

Lavoie started as a firefighter with the Worcester Fire Department in 1987. In 2001, he was promoted to lieutenant, before being named captain in 2008. In 2009, he was named Worcester Fire Safety Division District Chief, and in 2011, he was named North End District Chief. From 2015-2017 he served as Deputy Chief of Administration, before being promoted to Fire chief in 2017.

One of Lavoie’s main focuses has been on health and safety. He worked closely with the City Manager to stop the practice of brownouts in the City, which occur when there is not enough personnel to staff a truck. There have been no brownouts since July 2017. He also oversaw implementation of 02X Human Performance training and workshops aimed at improving the overall health of firefighters. During Lavoie’s time as chief, the Worcester Fire Department converted to new Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus, which are more ergonomic and contain a number of safety features, including a thermal imager and improved communications capabilities.

Several new vehicles have also been added to the department, reducing the average age of the fleet from 14.5 in 2017, when Lavoie became Chief, to 8.5 in 2021.

“This is a difficult decision, but I know I’m at the right time and place,” Lavoie said of retiring. “I know I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss the job. It has been an honor and it has been extremely humbling to serve as fire chief for the second-largest city in New England.”

“Chief Lavoie has guided the Fire Department through trying times in recent years, including a pandemic and the loss of two firefighters,” City Augustus said. “Through it all, he has demonstrated a fierce dedication to the men and women of the Worcester Fire Department, and to the safety of the residents of Worcester. Firefighting is in his blood, and the City of Worcester is better for his service all these years. I wish him the best in his future endeavors.

Lavoie is retiring Jan. 22, the date he was sworn in as Chief in 2017.

The City will be working on the transition to a new Assistant City Manager and Fire Chief.

Spencer, who will be moving to Worcester, will assume the role as Commissioner of Inspectional Services on Sept. 7. He replaces longtime commissioner John Kelly, who retired earlier this year, and Timothy P. McInerney who has been filling the position on an interim basis.

Spencer has a background in architectural, urban and graphic design; construction; historic preservation; and city planning. Most recently, he served as Commissioner of Planning and Development for the City of Albany, N.Y., from 2017-2021. In that capacity, he oversaw three major departments, including the Department of Buildings and Regulatory Compliance, with a combined budget exceeding $9 million. As Commissioner, he led a number of projects throughout the city, including a $30-million street light purchase and LED conversion project.

Prior to that, Spencer served as Director of Planning in Albany, guiding the city through the development and adoption of its first comprehensive zoning and land use overhaul in more than 50 years.

A graduate of Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I. with a master’s in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Spencer has also served as Campus Planner for the University at Albany as well as the first Town Planner in Tiverton, R.I. and as a Project Manager for a wide range of residential remodeling, commercial adaptive reuse, and urban design projects.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to join the dedicated and talented Inspectional Services team in Worcester,” Spencer said. “I am eager to bring my experience and background to this position, and continue the work on many important projects, while helping to lead the department and the City into the future.”

“I am excited to welcome Chris to the City family and look forward to his leadership of Inspectional Services,” Augustus said. “I also want to extend my appreciation and thanks to Tim McInerney for guiding the Department through this time of transition, as well as Amanda Wilson, Director of Housing and Health Inspections, and Deputy Building Commissioner David Horne for their tireless efforts and support.”

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