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Fire chief search will stay in-district

Fire District 7 has decided to stay local when looking for its new fire chief.

Over objections from Fire Commissioner Darla Hartley, the district’s Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 last week in favor of keeping the chief search totally in-house, at least for now.

The commissioners had the option of hiring a consultant to do a statewide or even nationwide search for fire chief candidates. Instead, they decided to give their home-grown brass first shot at the top job.

“I think we should be developing people in the district who should be able to move up to these positions,” said Commissioner Dusty Wiley.

Although no one in the department has formally announced his or her intention to apply to replace outgoing Fire Chief Mike Brown, it is widely expected that all the assistant fire chiefs will apply, plus a fair number of the department’s battalion chiefs.

Brown himself was hired from a Seattle fire company, but several commissioners pointed out the department has grown both in size and in expertise over the last decade and should be able to produce a healthy crop of top-quality chief candidates.

The commissioners’ vote means would-be chiefs will be able to start submitting their applications. Although the matter was not implicitly discussed, most of the commissioners seemed to feel this initial application process also was a good way to see who in the department would apply.

If the pool is not as big as expected, Brown reminded the commissioners they can still hire a consultant to expand the search.

The commissioners also ap-proved a new job description for the chief position. Even though the board spent weeks taking input from district personnel and submitting its own comments, the new job description is not much different than the last version, approved in 1992.

The biggest change is in the qualifications section. The old description required all candidates to have at least an Associate of Arts degree in fire science and/or public administration.

The new description ups the stakes slightly, requiring a Bachelor’s Degree or an equivalent combination of education and experience.

During the comment period, public opinion had been split over the issue of degree requirements.

The majority of volunteer and full-time personnel had been in favor of requiring some type of degree while the officers felt such a requirement would shut out otherwise qualified candidates.

The board opted to go with the line personnel, although by including an option for “equivalent education and experience,” the board is not necessarily tying itself down to degree holders.

“I think we can work with this job description,” Wiley said.

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