The Everett City Council voted unanimously last Wednesday, September 10, against a proposal by Mayor Carlo DeMaria that would have taken the Fire Chief’s position out of civil service and eliminated a requirement that new fire chiefs, when chosen, be required to complete the Fire Chief’s exam that accompanies that designation.
Though the mayor had argued forcefully for the change when he made the proposal back in June, both the firefighter’s union and current Fire Chief David Butler had opposed the change, arguing that Butler had followed the current system through the ranks before being appointed chief.
Mayor DeMaria has himself stated “I have a very good working relationship with Butler,” but said that he believes that the Mayor should have the ability to make a determination about “who the best person for the job is.”
The Mayor and his staff had also argued that the testing requirement could result in three privates on the department earning the highest scores and being the only candidates the mayor could consider, in the event he needs to replace Butler, something even the Mayor acknowledged isn’t likely anytime soon.
Further complicating the landscape is the fact that no members of the Fire Department have taken the test in recent years, as Butler is viewed as a popular leader and entrenched Chief, who has no plans to retire. Since the test results are only good for two years, officers in the department who take the test would have to hope that the chief would need to be replaced in that two year timeframe or pay the several hundred dollars it costs to take the test again.
Despite the arguments for and against the change, which were made at a Council meeting in June, there was almost no comment by Councilors prior to their vote.
Ward 4 Councilor Stephen Simonelli noted, “I don’t think we should put this in the hands of anyone but the chief of fire,” and also added, “This is not a good thing for the city and lots of (people in) the fire department don’t want this,” before voting against the change.