Monday, December 03, 2001

Three dozen apply for fire chief

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — About three dozen fire professionals from across the country have applied for the fire chief's job in this fast-growing Warren County city, which has seen three chiefs in a five-month period.

        Fifteen of the 32 applicants are from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. The others hail from states including California, New York and Florida. Deputy Fire Chief Ray Mueller said he did not apply for the job.

        “The applicants are from all ranks of the fire department,” spokeswoman Jennifer Trepal said. “Their experience ranges from a few years in the fire service to almost 20 and from firefighter, EMT to deputy chief, assistant chief, division chief and chief.”

        Choosing a chief is considered key to boosting morale and bringing stability to this department. H. Michael Drumm, the most recent fire chief, resigned in May after City Manager Scot Lahrmer told him he was not a “good fit” for the department. The new fire chief — who will make at least $55,000 annually — could be in place as early as March.

        “There will be an extensive interview process that includes interviews, background checks, fire professionals from outside the organization and staff,” Mrs. Trepal said.

        Vice Mayor Jim Fox said he's not surprised with the response for the fire chief's position, despite the low morale in the department.

        “I think any time a chief's position opens up, a lot of people are going to jump at it because it's a chance to advance. Plus, I think that Mason offers some unique opportunities because of its location, and we do have a history of being a good place to work,” Mr. Fox said.

        He said a fire chief with strong leadership qualities should be able to work through staff problems.

        “There have been some morale problems, but there have been some unique personnel issues,” said Mr. Fox.

        Earlier this year, a City Council ad hoc committee studied three proposals that called for combining fire and police to create a safety department, becoming a mostly full-time department, or hiring full-time supervisors.

        The changes could cost between $1.7 million and $5.5 million for personnel, according to preliminary estimates.

        Mrs. Trepal said the committee “may, at some future time, come back and revisit (creating) the safety department.” Mason's mostly part-time and on-call paid fire department has 75 employees, including six full-time.

        Six full-time firefighter/paramedics will begin work in January.


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