City reviews community input as fire chief search inches ahead

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Austin Montgomery/Beloit Daily News At right: GovHR USA Vice President T.E. Sashko discusses results from the community survey issued by the Beloit Police and Fire Commission in its hiring process for a new chief.

BELOIT - The search for a new Beloit fire chief could stretch further into the new year than expected, with a community input process pushing back a proposed timeline for hiring a new leader of the Beloit Fire Department.

Members of the Beloit Police and Fire Commission met Thursday night to hear results from a survey asking for public input on the city's next fire chief. GovHR USA Vice President T.E. Sashko summarized the feedback and outlined the next steps in the search.

The meeting was not well-attended with two commission members absent, and most of the rest of the audience being made up of 10 Beloit fire staff and City Manager Lori Curtis Luther.

The commission will meet on Nov. 25 to discuss results of Thursday's meeting and go over the path ahead. No official job posting has yet been listed. The PFC will come to a consensus on any job posting at a later date, according to City Attorney Beth Krueger.

Former Fire Chief Brad Liggett left the department and accepted the fire chief position in Freeport, Illinois, in July.

In July, a preliminary timeline for the hiring process estimated a chief could be hired early in 2020, but that was before the PFC decided on requesting community input. Sashko said the recruitment period typically takes 45 days, with the holidays potentially delaying the process further.

"We're probably going to play with a little bit of that since people are not going to be thinking about making job change decisions during the holidays," Sashko said.

After a job posting is listed, the recruitment period by Sashko will begin followed by a selection process with tele-interviews being conducted with potential candidates before presenting final candidates for review by the PFC. By state law, the PFC is tasked with ultimately hiring a new chief.

A key question brought up Thursday was the inclusion of internal candidates, something PFC members say needs to be part of the process going forward. Having a qualified candidate already at the department won't limit the scope of the recruitment effort, Sashko said, citing the need to find the best possible candidates for consideration by the PFC.

In total, the city received 63 responses to the survey, 27 of which came from community groups asked to participate in the input process.

Of the responses, the top three leadership traits asked of a chief included being communicative (67.8% of responses); ethical (66% of responses) and approachable (47% of responses). The top three management styles supported by survey responses included 83% of respondents saying the chief needed to be collaborative; team-oriented (79% of responses) and innovative (54% of responses).

For moving the department forward, 72% of responses asked the new chief to challenge the status quo, with 67% of responses asking the chief be able to interact regularly with the community.

According to survey responses, the top challenges for the new chief would be fiscal responsibility in managing the department's budget; and competing with other city departments for funding.

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