Jim LeBlanc Training Center dedication honors late Leominster Emergency Management director

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LEOMINSTER — The crew at Emergency Management found a way to honor its beloved and late leader in both a meaningful and practical way.

The Director James ‘Jim’ LeBlanc Memorial Training Center was dedicated on Oct. 22, an event that drew a large crowd. Mayor Dean Mazzarella, Emergency Management Director Arthur Elbthal and other staff, members of the LeBlanc family including Jim’s widow Carol, and many more such as the police and fire chiefs gathered to pay tribute to the city legend who was involved with EM for well over five decades before his sudden passing in September of last year.

Late Leominster Emergency Management Director James LeBlanc has been honored with a training center in his name. (DANIELLE RAY/SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE FILE PHOTO)
Late Leominster Emergency Management Director James LeBlanc has been honored with a training center in his name. (DANIELLE RAY/SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE FILE PHOTO)

“I didn’t know him, but I’ve come to know him by sitting in his seat here,” Elbthal said on Friday of the well-known and respected man. “I understand he was a great guy, the kind of guy everyone would want in their hometown.”

Leominster Access Television covered the dedication, which included several speakers, and shared the video on its YouTube channel. Elbthal said the event was very well attended, so much so that people were lined up outside the door of the spacious training room where it was held.

“It was quite the crowd, standing room only,” he said. “That really speaks to who Jim was and what he meant to everyone.”

Born and raised in Leominster, LeBlanc graduated from Leominster Trade High School in 1965. It was there he met his high school sweetheart Carol, who he was married to for just shy of 56 years.

He began his prolific career as a draftsman with Leominster based Foster Grant the same year he graduated from high school, leading to a 50-year career in the plastics industry where LeBlanc was highly respected for his optics expertise. He remained in that field until his 52-year volunteering journey with emergency management, his lifelong passion, led him to take over as director in 2018.

The Director James 'Jim' LeBlanc Memorial Training Center was dedicated on Oct. 22 at Leominster Emergency Management headquarters in honor of the beloved and dedicated late leader who was well respected in the greater community and beyond. (COURTESY RON GIROUARD)
The Director James ‘Jim’ LeBlanc Memorial Training Center was dedicated on Oct. 22 at Leominster Emergency Management headquarters in honor of the beloved and dedicated late leader who was well respected in the greater community and beyond. (COURTESY RON GIROUARD)

LeBlanc was instrumental in getting the top-notch EM training center built during his tenure. Elbthal noted that when he came on as director in March, “we were coming out of COVID and wanted to use the training center the way Jim envisioned it,” which will include training within the city as well as “inviting outside departments and cities and also citizens. That’s what (Jim) had in mind.”

A memorial plaque for LeBlanc was placed on a stone by the flagpole in front of the Carter Street EM headquarters, the sign by the main entrance of the building was updated to reflect the training center’s name, and a new sign was erected on the Cedar Street side.

An Oct. 21 social media post showing off the new signage drew well over 100 reactions and dozens of comments. One man wrote “Jim was one of the most dedicated people I have ever met, a real gentleman. This is a great tribute to his memory” and another person said, “Jim would be so proud,” a true testament to how much LeBlanc is admired still to this day and the indelible mark he left behind.

“Imagine all those years of public service…just incredible,” Mazzarella said with a smile on his face at the dedication. “(Jim) was a good human being and the man had passion and he had purpose. What greater gifts could you give anyone than to have somebody on Earth here with all of those because that’s the recipe right there and so few people get that recipe.”