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Four in the running for Fire District 7 chief

Although current Kitsap County Fire District 7 Chief Mike Brown has yet to announce a firm retirement date, the district’s Board of Commissioners told a packed meeting room they have narrowed the field of potential replacements to four current employees qualified enough to take over when their boss leaves at the end of the year.

“We have identified four viable candidates, all in-house,” said Commissioner Dusty Wiley at the board’s last meeting earlier this month, explaining, however, that the commissioners still have the option of opening up the search again if they decide they limited the field too quickly.

Brown said all the candidates met or exceeded the requirements identified in the chief job description the board created, each being a chief officer with a rank of battalion chief or higher.

Wiley said several more interviews are planned with the candidates, including interviews with Brown, but that the board now planned “to sit back and wait until September.”

According to the job description, the chief is not only responsible for supervising all employees and employee relations, but for supervising the maintenance, use and replacement of all facilities and equipment.

The chief is an appointed public official who reports directly to the Board of Commissioners and, according to the description, must have the ability to communicate well with not only employees and the board, but with numerous government officials and representatives, along with media and other entities.

The latest job description was created after the board collected input from district personnel and its own members, but differs only slightly from the last version, which was 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.

Although earlier in the chief selection process some members of the board expressed interest in hiring a consultant, Commissioner Dave Gelsleichter said the board ultimately decided “we could easily do it ourselves,” and voted 4-1 to keep the search in-house, with Commissioner Darla Hartley the only dissenting vote.

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.

Only Hartley seemed unconformable with the idea of limiting the chief search to the district’s ranks. She told the other commissioners she felt a broader base of candidates would ensure the district would find the best chief possible.

“This is not, on my behalf, anything to do with the people who work in the district,” Hartley said, addressing the district members in the audience. “They’re all fine people.”

The commissioners vote then paved the way for would-be chiefs to start submitting their applications.

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