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Fire board to come up with ‘strategic plan’

February 6, 2013
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

While the Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District has a mission statement and a vision statement, it does not have a "strategic plan," and Board of Commissioners Chairman Larry Becker, a retired businessman, said every business or organization such as the fire department, should have a plan stated for staffers and commissioners to follow.

He said such a strategic plan needs to be written and other members of the board agreed.

Board attorney Richard Pringle agreed at the Jan. 29 meeting and said many other fire districts do have strategic plans and that they are important, much like a "road map" that covers all elements and services that the department includes.

Article Photos

Mary Ellen Dorsett

Commissioner Mary Ellen Dorsett of the Iona Fire District, who has been hired to help find a new fire chief, agreed to help in forming such a strategic plan and offer it to the commissioners.

She told the group that FGCU can also be of great help and especially one of the professors there who has helped other organizations form a strategic plan.

"We need to have it as part of hiring a new fire chief," Dorsett said.

She said the Iona fire district reviews its plan every four months of the year.

"It's not put on a shelf. It is a living document and may need changes," she said. "Not only does it help in the task of employing a new fire chief, but it helps in evaluations of your fire chief," she said.

Dorsett, who has served for some time on the Iona fire district, is actively involved in the strategic formation and succession planning process of her fire district. She is the CEO of Organizational Dimensions Inc., a company she founded in 1984.

She has earned a bachelor of arts in experimental psychology from Florida Atlantic University and a master of science degree in psychometry and counseling from Nova University, and her doctorate at the George Washington University in organizational and human resource development. Her research interests are organizational knowledge creation, strategic planning, and human resource development.

Dorsett was brought on last month as a consultant to the Lehigh fire district to help plans ways in which to employ a new fire chief. In the meantime, the fire districted unanimously agreed to put John Wayne, a battalion commander, in the position as interim fire chief. And while it appears that each member of the commission believes that Wayne is a good choice for promotion to the top job, it was decided to call upon Dorsett to help with the plan, advertising and other items that may be necessary in finding a new fire chief. She helped in finding the previous chief at a cost of around $12,000. This time around, the cost could be more.

Interim Fire Chief John Wayne says he is interested in the position and will apply if the commission continues down the patch to formally decide on advertising for a chief. For many employees in the fire department, it is believed Wayne will be hired eventually.

But Dorsett says it could be April or May before advertising begins to hire a new chief.

"You are in capable hands with Chief Wayne," she told members of the board at the January 29 meeting.

Dorsett advised the commissioners not to advertise for the job of chief until a strategic plan is completed because it is something applicants want to see before they apply for the position.

Commission Chairman Becker, looking somewhat perplexed, asked the commissioners if they wanted to continue on or stop.

Commissioner David Adams said he would at least like to see a list of candidates.

Commissioner Cathy Kruse said a strategic plan will help the board to hire a new chief. She said however that she is hearing good things and "kudos" about Interim Chief John Wayne. But we should hold off until we get a strategic plan," she said.

And Commissioner Jackie Danis agreed that she likes Wayne handling the chief's role, but she liked the idea of a strategic plan, too.

Commissioner Linda Carter said without a strategic plan, "we're setting the chief up for failure." And Commissioner David Adams asked how much more in money would this cost for Dorsett to help to form such a plan in addition to helping find a new fire chief.

In a previous meeting Dorsett gave an overview of her cost and what commissioners could expect. She said she charges $100 an hour and when she helped to find the last fire chief, Don Adams, who retired this past fall, the cost came in at around $12,000. She said that is not uncommon to appoint a chief.

"This is not the issue. The issue is what else is out there. What other qualities are you looking for? The time frame is from six to eight months if you stay within the state of Florida to find a chief. She also told commissioners last month that there are a couple areas that need to be changed in the job description.

Meanwhile, Board Attorney Richard Pringle said State Rep. Matthew Caldwell was continuing to work with him to come up with legislation to add assessment fees to landowners in Lehigh to raise money for the fire district.

Pringle said conversations have been going on also with State Sen. Garrett Richter and that possible legislation could be drawn up during this legislative session.

He said it would make it possible to put such an item on the ballot in 2014.

Pringle praised Caldwell who he said engaged with getting the law changed so an amendment could be put on the ballot. Such an amendment is needed, commissioners have said, to raise money for the fire district which is facing financial problems due lesser amounts of revenue being taken in by the taxpayers in Lehigh Acres due to the Great Recession.



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