The consulting firm that carried out the city's public safety audits and after-action reports for both the Middle Street and Pleasant Street fires will play a lead role in selecting Gloucester's next fire chief.
Municipal Resources Inc., or MRI, is tasked with winnowing down applications for the Fire Department's top position. The company was chosen by the city's Fire Chief Search Committee, according to Mayor Carolyn Kirk.
MRI will present a handful of finalists to the mayor's office for public interview. The city's preferred time-line wanted finalists six days ago, with a hire in January.
David Bain, the city's personnel director and chairman of the search committee, did not return calls for comment on this story. Members Richard Maybury and former Police Chief Michael McLeod were unavailable for comment as well.
Fire Chief Phil Dench is set to retire Feb. 28 after serving nearly three years as the department's interim leader. Kirk's office declared the position vacant in mid-August and the committee started work in late September. But the committee's running on a tight time frame, Kirk acknowledged, and the process, by its very nature, doesn't move quickly.
This is the first search for a fire chief the city's conducted outside of the Civil Service process. And the next chief, said Kirk, will have his or her hands full.
She said the chief will have to look at alternative models for improving public safety levels in the outlying fire stations of Bay View, Magnolia and West Gloucester. The next chief will also have to take a hard look at implementing a litany of recommendations detailed in various department audits and after-action reports. He or she will need to address the possibility of a new combined public safety facility as well, Kirk said.
Searching for a candidate with those qualifications will and should take time, said former City Councilor Jason Grow. Grow helped move the fire chief search process out of Civil Service.
The Kirk administration, Grow said Tuesday, should have declared the position vacant last January when the City Council voted to take the job out from under the Civil Service umbrella.
Grow added that the council voted the position out to open the search up to a thorough public process. The last thing that process needs to be, he said, is rushed. But with Dench on his way out in just over two months, Grow said it's unlikely that the committee could fit in the amount of public input the ordinance asks for.
"There's no question that they (the search committee) can find somebody to fill the position," he said, "but that's not the point of the exercise."
The committee, he said, should take the time it needs to find the right person for the job.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.