Vote vs appoint: How to pick a fire chief

vote

Finding the right leaders is difficult and no system is foolproof. Many volunteer departments have a long tradition of voting for chiefs and chief officers. And we asked our readers if that was the best system for picking a chief.

Here are eight of the more interesting responses. What do you think? Add your comments below.

“We’ve been both ways during my 17 years with my department. When the members voted, the chosen officers were not always the best qualified for the position. Since we went to appointment, I feel we have made a change for the positive. In the past three years we have been more consistent with what we’re doing with less disruptions.” — John Caudillo

“All chiefs and officers should be voted in by the department’s membership. I don’t want some city employee telling me how or what to do at a fire if they have no clue.” — Sonny Schoenberger

“I would hope that most departments in the 21st century would be having chiefs appointed by the governing body.” — Dave Bloom

“Voting just turns into a popularity contest with no regard to training or experience. Members should put in who they want for chief with the trustees or city approving, then the chief with input from his firefighters should appoint the other officers.” — Jake Meyer

“We nominate a chief and the city council has to approve them and appoint them to the position. Only way the chief changes is by city council vote. The members can petition the council and argue a case if there is an issue with the chief.” — Daniel Asa Royal

“My suggestion is have an appointed chief that has the full support of the city council and then the officers can be elected.” Richard Gardner

“Nominated then interviewed in an open forum by a group of two life members, two board members, and two citizens that don’t have any involvement directly. Then hold an open vote of qualified nominees.” — Dana Nay

“So what do you do when a small volunteer department has no one qualified to be chief? If the ESD appointed someone from outside the department and he/she comes in and wants to shake the rug or be a jerk, you lose people that are so hard to come by. Appointment works in paid departments, but in volunteer departments the members know who the leaders should be.” — Steve Bynum

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Randy Lanham

    We vote on the Fire Chief as well as Deputy and Asst Chief’s. Once the membership has voted for the Fire Chief, it is presented to the City Council for approval. This gives the membership a say on who leads the department. Yes it could end up as a popularity tool, but the members should know who is qualified to run the dept.