Mayor Carolyn Kirk announced Monday the appointment of Deputy Fire Chief Steve Aiello to serve as the city's acting fire chief beginning next Monday until the selection of a permanent chief — and for a term not expected to extend past late May, the mayor said.
Phil Dench, who has served as interim chief for nearly three years, reaches the mandatory Civil Service retirement age of 65 on Monday, Feb. 27.
The current selection process for a new chief marks the first time the city is not bound by the internal promotion structures of the Civil Service law which was abandoned by the City Council in January 2011.
Barry McKay, the last permanent chief who served for 28 years, retired in March 2009.
A Gloucester native, Aiello joined the Fire Department in 1984.
Kirk said she made the choice after consultation with Dench, with Aiello and the other three deputy chiefs.
"Together, we determined that the best course of action was to appoint a senior deputy from the existing leadership to ensure continuity in the department while the search continues," Kirk said in a prepared statement.
Kirk said that Aiello would be paid on a biweekly basis at a rate of what would be $104,000 if it were annualized.
"The figure is based on a range for a typical fire chief salary," she said.
The city's current range for both its police and fire chiefs is $81,000 to $96,000, but the mayor is seeking Council approval to raise the range for both positions to between $98,000 and $116,000.
In announcing her appointment of the acting chief Monday, Kirk also called for an overhaul of the ordinance, approved by the Council in January 2011, that governs the selection process for the fire chief's position. The same ordinance is being used to carry out a search for a new police chief, with three-year interim chief Mike Lane also due to step down there in May, and that search committee just now seeking a consulting firm to lead the search under the ordinance.
"The open search for a new chief has been exhaustive, but also time-consuming and will be expensive before the process ends," Kirk said.
After an initial search committee, headed by city Personnel Director David Bain sought and hired its consultant, as outlined under the ordinance, that company — the New Hampshire-based Municipal Resources Inc. — fielded more than 40 applications, and has thus far whittled the field down to about 20, officials said last week
MRI is expected to have written responses from the remaining 20 candidates within days, Bain said. But up to seven finalists will be given psychological evaluations during an assessment, with each candidate's tests estimated to cost the city approximately $5,000.
The candidates will be interviewed by the search committee before the mayor makes a selection that requires Council confirmation.
Some Council officials have stood by the ordinance, and suggested that the mayor should simply have gotten an earlier start on the search, which began in August. The city's ordinance is based on one that has been used in the past in the city of Somerville.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.