JP Kennedy sworn in as new Whately fire chief


Staff Writer

Published: 06-21-2023 3:28 PM

WHATELY — Following the retirement of its longtime fire chief, the Whately Fire Department swore in another lifelong member to fill the position on Tuesday.

Before family, friends and representatives from neighboring public safety departments, JP Kennedy, a lifelong Whately firefighter and captain of both the Whately and Amherst fire departments, was sworn into his new role as Whately fire chief, replacing John Hannum, who retired on his 70th birthday last week after 52 years of service and 19 and a half years as chief.

Kennedy, 52, joined the Whately Fire Department at 18 years old and has served as captain for nearly five years. At the same time, he’s also served as an EMT and paramedic for the Amherst Fire Department — a role he intends to keep as Whately’s fire chief role entails working less than 40 hours per week.

As chief, Kennedy said one of his highest priorities will be maintaining the ranks, while also passing on the gift of mentoring that he’s received throughout his career.

“I’m very much looking forward to leading the department,” he said, noting he never thought he’d reach this position when he joined decades ago. “I’ve had lots of support from department members, both from this department and others, and I’ve had lots of mentors along the way. I wouldn’t be in this position without the mentors I had.”

He also said he wants to continue providing the strong fire prevention services implemented by the department under Hannum’s leadership.

As he was sworn in by Town Clerk Amy Lavallee, Kennedy’s family, friends and peers from the Whately, Hatfield, South Deerfield and Amherst fire departments looked on. Kennedy also started a new tradition during the swearing-in ceremony with a passing of the badge. Lori Hannum took the fire chief badge from her husband and handed it to JP Kennedy’s wife, Ellen Coss Kennedy, who pinned the badge on his chest.

Speaking to those gathered, Kennedy said Hannum was a “role model” for so many people in town, including him. He said Hannum helped lead him to a professional role in Amherst, which then led him to meeting the several other fire officers in attendance, whom he also thanked for guiding him.

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“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be an Amherst firefighter,” Kennedy said. “One of my goals as a fire chief is to mentor people in the same way that many of the chiefs, officers and other firefighters that are here have mentored me. I want to be able to pass that on to others.”

Kennedy thanked his father, who was also a firefighter, for being a role model, and his wife, who is also an EMT, for dealing with the challenges that come with the firefighting profession.

“I remember responding to fires with my father,” Kennedy said. “It was not uncommon for children of firefighters and the entire team watching what was going on and learning and taking it all in.”

Addressing Coss Kennedy, he said their 20th anniversary is approaching this month and she has stuck through all the late-night calls.

“I’ve been on the Amherst Fire Department for 22 years. She’s been putting up with emergency calls, telephone calls and emergency tones. As everybody here knows, all these things happen at the most inconvenient times,” he said. “Thanks for putting up with my community service.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at or 413-930-4081.