Capping a nine-month search, Mayor Carolyn Kirk on Monday chose a deputy chief from a fire department in suburban Detroit to become the next leader of the Gloucester Fire Department.
Kirk chose Eric Smith, a deputy chief with the Westland, Mich., Fire Department as the city's new permanent chief, the first one chosen from outside the bounds of state Civil Service regulations and thus the first chief in the modern era to be chosen from outside the department.
Kirk chose Smith after interviewing three finalist , including current acting Chief Steven Aiello, last week. The other finalist was Falmouth Deputy Chief Glen Rogers.
Kirk's appointment is still subject to negotiating a contract, and to gaining City Council approval.
The mayor said Monday that Smith's department in Westland handled "double the (number of) emergency calls, three times the population, a smaller department and they keep four stations open."
Westland is a city that sits 28 miles west of Detroit and includes some 84,000 people, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Smith's department covers 20 square miles, and is the third busiest department in the state, with 9,700 emergency response calls last year, according to Kirk's prepared statement. Smith is the second in command of the 70-member department, which manages four stations with a similar overtime budget to Gloucester's, the mayor said. Smith could not be reached for comment Monday night.
Kirk said she approached the interviews with departmental change in mind. The first step, she said, is defining that change.
She said she views Westland as representing a pretty good image of a 21st century fire department. The city doesn't necessarily want to mirror it, Kirk said — but it's a good start.
Firefighters union president Phil Bouchie said Monday night that Smith and the union will have their own learning curves.
Bouchie said he's not surprised the city went with an out-of-town chief, but added that it's going to take some time for the union to learn how to work with him, and the other way around.
"We've got to take some time to get to know the chief," he said.
The city's Fire Chief Search Committee sent Kirk the three finalists two weeks ago, ringing down a search that started in August and drew 41 candidates overall. City councilors had removed the chief's position from Civil Service last January.
Smith has served with the Westland department since 1991 and has risen through the ranks. He held the positions of firefighter, sergeant, hazmat team leader, captain, battalion chief, and deputy chief. He is also a licensed paramedic, and served in the U.S. Air Force from May 1986 to January 1990, and held the rank of sergeant upon his discharge.
Smith holds a Bachelor in Public Safety degree from Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Mich., while pursuing coursework for a Master of Science in Technology Studies and Emergency Management from Eastern Michigan University.
He also holds an Associate in Fire Technology degree from Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Mich.
Smith also holds many professional certifications and was a part-time paramedic instructor for a number of years, teaching all levels of emergency medical services education at Baker College in Westland.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.