The search for the next Clinton Fire Department chief has been extensive and is nearing a close, with the next head of the department expected to be named “within the month,” the mayor said.
The city has been searching for new leadership in two key city departments since the beginning of this year. A fire chief is expected to be hired in the near future and a new police chief is expected to be named later this year. The former is nearing completion.
“We are getting very close,” said Mayor Lew Starling. “They’ve had a large number of applicants and they have gone down the list and done an extensive search to narrow that list.”
More than 60 applications were received for the open fire chief position, a vacancy originally anticipated to be filled by June. Interim fire chief Robert Swiger is currently leading the department. Former chief Todd Solice stepped down at the end of last year in favor of resuming his previous role as deputy fire chief, a capacity in which he served from 2001 until his promotion to chief in September 2009.
The hiring of Solice came after an extensive five-month hiring process that included public input sessions, focus groups and an evaluation of more than 40 applicants for the position. Three finalists were chosen to participate in an assessment center, from which Solice was chosen. Following Solice’s decision to resume his deputy chief duties, the opening for the top post was advertised in January and February.
The 60 applications received this time around were reviewed and a similar assessment center conducted — public input from focus groups held during the 2009 assessment was also utilized — for the top five applicants. The assessment center was held the week before last, and the list has since been whittled further to a select number of candidates.
“The fire chief search has gone really well,” Starling said. “We are excited with the qualifications of the candidates who have shown interest. We’re getting close to being ready to name (the new fire chief). I would anticipate within the month.”
The police chief search is not as far along as the fire chief search, with an assessment center not yet held, the mayor pointed out.
A tentative timeline was presented by city manager John Connet in the spring that would see the hiring of the next police chief by September. Chief Mike Brim announced that he will be retiring Oct. 1, 2012 and Connet has expressed his desire to have the position filled before Brim leaves.
“It is my intention to have the new police chief in place prior to Mike’s departure,” Connet stated in a memo to the mayor and Council earlier this year. “In order to accomplish this task, I am proposing that we follow the same process that we have used to hire police and fire chiefs over the last 10 years. This process will include the utilization of an outside firm to assist with the development of an assessment center, recruitment and formal background check.”
According to that timeline, applications were to be reviewed through July, during which time the candidate pool will be whittled down to between five and seven applicants. The police chief assessment center would then be held, with follow-up interviews conducted through August and a background check subsequently done for the top candidate.
It is hoped that the new police chief will be introduced at the Council’s regular meeting Sept. 4, Connet has said. However, that search is ongoing.
“It is still in the preliminary stages,” Starling noted.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.