By Seth Daniel
The Public Safety Committee held a meeting on Wednesday evening, June 8, in the Council Chambers and addressed the fate of the Everett Fire Department’s fire chief position.
With Fire Chief David Butler intending to retire in July, the position will be up for grabs. Currently the position is determined from a civil service test, but Mayor Carlo DeMaria would like this to change. Joining the discussion were Firefighters Union President Craig Hardy, who favors the current system; Mayor Carlo DeMaria, who is hoping for change; and the Public Safety Board consisting of city councilors who will ultimately make a decision on the matter. The proposal has been controversial, with the mayor addressing his concerns that the City has little power over a position that is from Civil Service, but the firefighters fear this gives the Mayor the opportunity to hire outside of the ranks.
Currently, the police chief position is appointed by the Mayor.
However, councilors and the firefighters union alike, expressed concerns including the possibility of the Mayor having the power to seek outside of the ranks for a new chief. Mayor Carlo DeMaria assured this is not his intent.
“Some of the issue is they’re afraid to bring someone from outside. This is not the intention at all,” the Mayor explained. “I’m not going to put the wrong person in. I’m going to put the person in who is an effective manager.”
Councilor Mike McLaughlin expressed his concerns that while Mayor Carlo DeMaria may not intend to hire outside of the ranks, a future Mayor might.
“This is going to be a permanent change forever,” Councilor McLaughlin stated, “It allows the next person to hire whoever.”
From there it was suggested that an ordinance be put in place that would only permit the City to hire a chief from within the department.
Firefighter Union President Craig Hardy backtracked, questioning what the point was of doing away with the current system, if an ordinance would force hirings from within the current department anyways.
“If we were going to make that ordinance, I see no point in taking it out of civil service if you’re going to keep it in the ranks,” he said.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria explained the challenges the City faces when having a chief from civil service.
“If you have a chief on civil service, he’s from the union, he’s sometimes not as an effective manager as you want him to be,” he said. “I’m not saying that Chief Butler wasn’t [an effective manger].”
He explained, expressing that the City has little power over the position as it currently stands. The Mayor also argued that with the system of checks and balances, the council would still have the ability to accept or reject the person of his recommendation for a permanent chief.
As of now, firefighters were not expecting the current chief to retire and have not taken the exam that was offered in May. The exam and books are costly and require significant preparation, and without knowledge of their fire chief retiring, it would have been redundant for the firefighters to prepare for a test to fill an already occupied position.
“We try to run our department without the politics,” Hardy explained in statement following the meeting. In the meantime, Deputy Chief Anthony Carli will be appointed the provisional chief by the mayor while the solution to this matter is determined.
The meeting was adjourned after determining that the item will be referred to the City Council Meeting on June 27 with no recommendation. At the same meeting, they will have an ordinance prepared to the whole body to deny or accept whether or not the position will remain in civil service.