The Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District has agreed to interview the sole candidate for the position of fire chief for the fire department. The interview will be done via Skype, an Internet online service, and members will interview the prospective candidate individually and then meet to decide if they want to proceed with more dialogue with the candidate or advertise again for another candidate.
Dr. Mary Ellen Dorsett, who is working as a consultant with the Lehigh Fire District, identified the candidate as Bernard W. Becker III who lives in North Royalton, Ohio. He is not related to the Lehigh Fire District's board chairman, Larry Becker.
Dorsett told the board that after advertising for the position which was left open after the resignation of former chief Don Adams last November, there was only one candidate who was qualified for the position.
Lehigh Acres Fire and Rescue District Commissioner Cathy Kruse is shown during a discussion at the meeting held last week.
The board had requested that the candidates have a master's degree and Dorsett said Becker was the only candidate who did. There were a few others who applied for the position, she told the board, but none had a master's degree. She said they had bachelor's degrees and some were planning on getting a master's degree.
In his application letter to Dorsett, Becker said he had more than 30 years of fire and emergency service knowledge, skills and experience, and more than 15 years of chief fire/EMS officer experience.
He earned a bachelor of science degree in fire and safety engineering technology from the University of Cincinnati and a master of science degree in executive fire service leadership from the Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz.
He is a graduate of the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program (EFO) in Emmitsburg, Md, certified as a chief fire officer designate from the Center for Public Safety Excellence and a member of the Institute of fire engineers. He currently is a doctoral candidate, working on a doctorate of business administration degree and in addition he is a part-time professor for the University of Cincinnati Open Learning Fire Science Program, a past part-time professor for the Grand Canyon University Public Safety Dept. and an adjunct instructor for the Dept. of Homeland Security, specializing in homeland security planning for local governments.
In his application, he shows that he applied to the Cape Coral Fire Dept. in January of this year for a position and was originally accepted but then rejected. He also has applied for a position with the Iona McGregor Fire Dept.
After Donald Adams resigned in November, the new board of commissioners appointed Battalion Chief John Wayne as interim fire chief along with Fire Marshal Ken Bennett to run the department. Later Wayne took on the role with full responsibility as interim fire chief.
Wayne did not apply for the full-time position as fire chief and has not offered any reasons why he has not done so despite the fact that he told commissioners a few months back after being appointed interim chief, that he was interested in the job. He meets the qualifications that the board is looking for.
Adams was making $133,000 annually in the position and that amount was given to Wayne while he holds the position. No amount has been brought up for the new chief's salary.
Dr. Dorsett said she has known the prospective candidate for several years and said he comes with good credentials.
During a discussion of hiring a new chief, Commissioner Jackie Danis expressed frustration and noted that the interim chief sitting at the table was someone who was doing a good job of leading the department.
Richard Pringle, the board's attorney, announced that a bill that would give Lehigh residents a right to vote on how to fund their fire department was awaiting the governor's signature as of last week. At present, the department is funded by ad valorem taxes. The bill will allow special fire districts, such as the one in Lehigh and others throughout the state, to charge an assessment fee on properties. Many believe that is a better choice in financing the department in light of the Great Depression which saw property values drop causing less tax revenue for the fire department.
The department has received two grants from the federal government to help keep the department afloat by providing enough money for firefighters to be rehired after their job positions were terminated over the past few years. The second grant is still in progress and provides monies for the salaries of several firefighters.
Also during the meeting, held on May 28, Interim Fire Chief Wayne announced that the two bargaining units IAFF Local 1826 and the non-bargaining unit employee had reached agreements with concessions to the fire district. The board voted to approve and accept the concessions for both the bargaining and non-bargaining unit.
The IAFF Local 1826 represents the firefighters and EMS personnel while the other non-bargaining unit represents six employees who are in the administration division which includes Ken Bennett, assistant chief and fire marshal, Sue Platas, administrative, Ben Van Klingeren, finance manager, Vanessa Koza, billing specialist, Jeffrey Nickell, Division chief of logistics and Janis Williams, secretary/ Life Safety. Van Klingeren, the finance manager, has resigned to accept another position.
Meetings are held on the last Tuesday evening of every month at Station 104 on 16th St. off of Sunshine Blvd. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. and those attending may speak on specific topics that are on the agenda.