Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Florence officials to review fire chief applicants

Acting leader has applied, as have more than 30 others

By Gina Holt
Enquirer contributor

        FLORENCE — More than 30 people have applied for the vacant fire chief position with the city of Florence.

        Betsy Conrad, city clerk, said applications had to be in last week. “We did get them from across the United States. Some are local,” she said.

        The position became vacant Aug. 1 when Tom Ollier retired.

        “He had served the city 32 years,” Mrs. Conrad said. “He started as a volunteer firefighter and he worked his way up. He served the city for over three decades. We hated to see him leave.”

        Assistant Chief Gary Zumbeil has been serving as acting chief since Aug. 1.

        “Some days are hectic,” said Mr. Zumbeil. “The rest of the guys are holding things together pretty well for me.”

        He has great respect for Mr. Ollier and said it's hard to follow in his footsteps. “Actually, he has little feet but yeah, big shoes to fill,” Mr. Zumbeil said with a laugh. “He knew everything there is to know about this town.”

        The city would not release the names of the applicants. Mr. Zumbeil said he did apply for the job, which pays $59,856.

        “It's a career goal,” Mr. Zumbeil, 46, of Florence, said. “It's something I've been training for. It's how I'd like to end my career.”

        He has been with the Florence Fire Department for almost 22 years and served as a volunteer at the Erlanger Fire Department before that.

        He said he is ready to oversee the department made up of 38 paid emergency employees, two paid clerical people and 35 volunteers.

        “I think I'd be fair,” Mr. Zumbeil said. “You have to take extra time to look at both sides.”

        As in most fire departments, he said there are some conflicts between the paid and volunteer staff, which he would like to change.

        “We need to confirm the role of a volunteer firefighter in this organization,” he said. “We need to create cooperation between paid and volunteer.”

        He said he is not sure but believes at least one other person from the Florence Fire Department applied for the position.

        Mayor Diane Whalen said it is fortunate that current staff feel they have the necessary qualifications to apply but does not know whether someone will be promoted from within.

        “I don't know that anybody is a shoo-in,” she said. “I don't know Gary very well but he has dedicated many years to the city of Florence.”

        Ms. Whalen said that 34 applicants are about what she expects for this position in a city as large as Florence.

        “Human Resources will be given the process of reviewing the resumes and choose which ones they want to interview,” she said. “HR will get it down to three or five. We leave all the preliminary work and recommendations to human resources and we'll do the final interview.”

        That decision will probably be made by Ms. Whalen, City Administrator Jeff Koenig, Mrs. Conrad and human resources.


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