Commentary: Fire Chief's Credibility Undermined

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, October 14, 2005

Before they went looking for a new chief, the union dominated Board of the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District lowered their standards. They decreed that the new chief hired to oversee the 740-member agency with a $140 million budget would no longer have to have a college degree. Nor would the new chief need a minimum of five years management experience.

Of the three finalists interviewed for the job, two easily met the old standard. One had a doctorate in public administration; the other had a law degree and years of economic and planning experience. Guess who the board chose? The only finalist without a college degree, a man with just three years management experience. He did have one credential important to this board. He was a union shop steward.

One board member who voted against the new chief says standards were deliberately dumbed down to facilitate the selection of a "pre-ordained" candidate. That certainly looks to be the case.

The selection process undermines the new chief's credibility with the public, and the men and women of Metro fire he must now lead. Even worse than that. It has been an insult to the other candidates who applied for the chief's job in good faith expecting a fair shake. They didn't get it.


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.