Chief hiring expansion heats up Hobart meeting

2013-11-06T21:25:00Z 2013-11-08T17:01:10Z Chief hiring expansion heats up Hobart meetingDeborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1387, ext. 2223 nwitimes.com

HOBART | Mayor Brian Snedecor said he hasn't formally interviewed any candidates for fire chief, but he wants the option to possibly hire from outside the department.

Those candidates include retired firefighters, Snedecor said.

"We have to make sure we have the best candidate to lead the department for the firefighters and the citizens of Hobart," Snedecor said.

The City Council discussed but didn't pass amending the city's Fire Civil Service Ordinance to allow the mayor to select a new fire chief from outside the city's fire department.

The ordinance now limits the mayor to naming a fire chief from the department's current members. That individual also must be a ranking officer and have at least five years experience on the department.

Discussion Wednesday by officials at the Ordinance Committee to amend the city's Fire Civil Service Ordinance didn't set well with Hobart Firefighter  Lt. Luke "Louis" Donsbach.

Donsbach, who serves on the Hobart Fire Civil Service Commission, said it was the first he had heard of the proposal by the mayor.

He was joined at the meeting by a number of firefighters who came to show their support.

"Why look outside unless no one is qualified on the department?  ... There's qualified officers here. My biggest concern is that this is the first I've heard of this," Donsbach said.

The 45-member fire department has been without a fire chief or assistant fire chief for more than a month.

Interim Fire Chief Brian Kerr stepped down in early October after holding the position for about three months.

Kerr returned to his regular turn schedule, and the three fire battalion chiefs were named to handle administrative duties, Snedecor said.

Snedecor said he doesn't expect to name a new fire chief until an ongoing review of the Fire Department is completed.

He has not said when that study will be completed.

Discussion by the mayor to allow him to hire a fire chief from outside the department was supported by most of the council with the exception of Councilwoman Monica Wiley, D-at-large.

"We have right here the qualified personnel we trust 24/7," Wiley said.

Councilman Jerry Herzog, D-1st, agreed to revisit the issue at the Nov. 20 meeting.

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