Fairfield’s deputy fire chiefs to serve in acting roles

Search also continues for a new finance director.

Fairfield will give its two deputy chiefs a shot at leading the fire department, which has seen only one full-time chief in 38 years.

The search for a new fire chief comes on the heels of the Aug. 12 retirement of Don Bennett, who was hired as the city’s first full-time fire chief in April 1984. He had been in the fire service for 52 years when he retired.

Fairfield Deputy Fire Chief Tom Wagner started a five-week period on Monday as acting chief, and Deputy Fire Chief Randy McCreadie will start a six-week period at the job on Sept. 19. Both are pursuing the full-time position, but it’s dependent on if they make the finalists list from an assessment conducted by an outside agency.

Fairfield City Manager Scott Timmer is looking at hiring two executive positions within the next few months. He anticipates extending an offer to a finance director candidate sometime next month, and a fire chief job offer could be made just before Halloween.

While the finance director search is a little more streamlined ― the position was advertised, resumes were received through last week, review of those resumes and interview candidates―hiring for the fire chief requires extra steps.

An outside agency, like the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association, will be requested to conduct an assessment of the candidates that apply, then submit a list of finalists to the city’s Civil Service Commission based on scores. The commission will certify that list, then provide those names to Timmer so he and some staff members can evaluate and interview candidates.

Interviews for the finance director job will be conducted in the next couple of weeks as the application deadline ended last week.

“Both fire and finance, they’re both critical positions for us for very different reasons,” said Timmer. “Having them on board is critical for our success.”

The next fire chief will oversee a plan that was implemented by Bennett, as well as Wagner and McCreadie, to convert the combination department to a career department. This process will eliminate all 36 part-time firefighter positions and create 18 full-time jobs. Like other departments across the region and country, it’s hard to find part-time firefighters when full-time work is abundantly available.

The plan is being aided by a voter-approved 9.25-mill continuing levy this past May.

The new fire chief is anticipated to be hired by the end of October.

The finance director is expected to be on board by mid-to-late September, just ahead of the 2023 budget presentations. Timmer said while this person won’t be involved in the development of the budget, they’ll be involved in the discussions.

“The upside for us right now, in both finance and in the fire department, we have internals that are in an acting capacity that are strong in what they do,” he said. “While they’re very critical positions for us, we’ve been able to train up our staff to the point where our acting (department heads) are doing a job at a level at a level where we won’t be missing anything (in this interim period).”

The finance director and fire chief will be the second and third executive staff hires made by Timmer, who was rehired by the city of Fairfield in February. Timmer, who left in 2021 to work for Butler County, hired Laura Murphy in July to be the city’s assistant city manager.

Murphy and Timmer worked together during his brief tenure with the county as assistant county administrator.

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