Police and Fire Commission begins search for new fire chief

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The city will begin the process of hiring its first new fire chief in more than a third of century this week.

The Police and Fire Commission, meeting Friday, authorized City Administrator Brian Yerges to begin advertising for a full-time chief to replace Ron Nicolaus, who is retiring at the end of the year.

“I do think that it’s possible we can have someone selected by the end of December or by January, definitely,” Yerges told the commission members.

Nicolaus, who became fire chief on a part-time basis in 1980 and was hired as the city’s first full-time paid chief in 1997, will be retiring at the end of the year.

Yerges reviewed a draft job description and requirements for the position with the commission and sought their feedback and input before a final version is approved.

“You guys have the authority to dictate the process, but I want to help you make it more efficient,” Yerges told the commissioners, adding that the city could go ahead and advertise for applicants before the documents are completed.

Commission member Char Lammers asked that Nicolaus’ input on the job description and requirements be sought.

Yerges noted that the draft includes a requirement for an associates degree in fire science, business administration or public administration, or a combination of experience and education.

“We have been moving toward that for other (management) positions in the city,” Yerges said of the education requirement.

The job description also lists more than half a dozen firefighting and emergency response certifications that would be required of candidates. Yerges said the commission could set up a timetable to acquire any of the certifications needed within a set period of time if it finds a candidate to hire who has not completed all of them.

Nicolaus noted that training for the certifications are available through the state technical college system, including Lakeshore Technical College.

The new fire chief would report to the police chief/director of public safety under the proposal presented by Yerges.

“The fire chief still has full control over the day-to-day operations of the department. He will do the running of the fire department,” Yerges assured Lammers.

According to the job description, the police chief/director of public safety would “review work for program effectiveness and assist with overall personnel management including, when required, disciplinary actions.”

Yerges proposed advertising the position on the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs Association website, on the Plymouth Fire Department website and with the League of Wisconsin Municipalities. Nicolaus noted that most fire departments advertise such openings online.

The commission also voted to advertise the position in The Review, with an eye toward reaching candidates in the Plymouth Fire Department as well as from outside.

“We want to open it up to everybody,” commission member Sam Suchon stated.

“There might be some internal candidates who might be interested and that would be a good fit,” Yerges commented. “That would make for an easier situation.”

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