City of Waukesha fire chief candidates down to six

First-round interviews will take place Monday, Tuesday

March 12, 2013

The City of Waukesha's fire chief search is entering the home stretch after the City's Police and Fire Commission whittled down the list of candidates from 48 to six.

Police and Fire Commission member Frances Kritzer said the commission met with representatives from Voorhees Associates March 4 when they reviewed the résumés and recommendations. Voorhees is an Illinois-based search firm working with the commission on the selection process.

Voorhees Associates Vice President Mark Morien said the applicants who applied for the position came from 19 states. Morien said four are from Wisconsin and two are from Illinois. He said names of the six finalists are not being released at this time.

Morien said the commission will conduct first-roundinterviews with the finalists on Monday and Tuesday and final interviews are to be determined. Kritzer said she anticipates them to be in early April.

It has been a year since the city's former chief, Allen LaConte, retired last March after 35 years with the department. Assistant Fire Chief Steve Howard has served as the interim fire chief since then. But finding a permanent replacement hasn't been a short process.

The Police and Fire Commission, a group of citizen volunteers independent from the city, asked to hire a search firm. They selected Voorhees, the same firm that helped select Ed Henschel as the city administrator. A majority of the Common Council did not want to use city money for a search, saying there are qualified candidates from within the department.

Despite the Common Council voting down funding for a search firm last April, Police and Fire Commission Chairwoman Cheryl Gemignani reaffirmed the commission's position at its next meeting saying that the commission does not have access to Fire Department staff to do just internal interviews.

"It is necessary for a search firm and its attendant manpower to be hired to take us through the extensive and time-consuming process of recruiting, screening, testing and vetting of candidates whom are the best qualified for the job to make sure that the process is in compliance with all appropriate federal, state and local laws so as not to expose the commission or the city to any potential litigation," Gemignani said at that meeting last April.

"The search for a new fire chief is as important as the search for a new city administrator and should be handled in the same manner to be fair and equitable to all."

Police and Fire Commission Vice Chairman Steve Mackie said last fall the commission could not take on the role of a search firm.

"There are so many laws we have to follow," Mackie said.

When it was brought before the council once again in November, despite facing some of the same opposition, a majority of the council this time approved the funding of a search firm.


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