No rush to hire new fire chief

DOWNEY - Jeff Turner formally retired as of the end of 2009 as Downey fire chief after logging some 35 years altogether in the fire service, but he was prevailed upon to stay another year.City Manager Gerald Caton said the additional one-year, part-time agreement with the chief, sanctioned by the City Council, has enabled the fire department to 1) benefit from his rich fund of knowledge and experience, as well as his leadership, and 2) equally important, enabled the city to realize savings of $7,410 per month, which is very welcome at a time when the city is "operating at a deficit." "The good thing about having good personnel running the different departments is you're able to basically leave them alone to do their job," Caton said, "and freeing you to focus on other things. Chief Turner is such a man." These 'other things' would include, among other concerns, the negotiations with Tesla Motors, etc. At any rate, the timetable for hiring a new fire chief, which will be conducted on a 'full recruitment approach' basis, goes something like this: an announcement about the available position "sometime in the summer"; applications evaluations by September; interviews of likely candidates (from within and without the department) by October; and final determination before the end of December. One of Turner's last official functions is to effect a smooth transition from him to the new fire chief. Caton said the city will be looking for an experienced fireman with the depth of knowledge and expertise such as the city's past fire chiefs have demonstrated. Other important qualities include leadership and people skills and thus the ability to act as a team player, as the fire chief has to interact with the City Council, other departments such as police, public works, etc., employees and staff, as well as members of the public. "A candidate may look good on paper," he said, "but a good assessment process, including in depth interviews, should give us what we want." "No matter who our final choice is, I'd say he's very lucky because as it is, the fire department is an extremely well-run department," Caton said. "Just to give an example, our paramedics' response time is fantastic, it's under five minutes." The compensation package is "competitive," with the salary range set at $75/hr.-$92/hr. (or $156,000-$191,000 per year).

********** Published: March 19, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 48