Fire Chief job to be re-posted before candidates advance to assessment center (Updated)

by beth on December 27, 2018

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The town will be re-advertising for a replacement Fire Chief. As of a couple weeks ago, they also planned to keep two candidates in the running while they continued the search. The committee is not recommending any internal candidates as qualified for the  job. 

The decision and reasons were disclosed in minutes just posted today from a closed Board of Selectmen meeting on December 11th. And this afternoon, the Town issued a public announcement.

Selectmen were told that the Fire Department employees’ indicated preference for the chief to come from outside. Search Committee Chair Malinowski suggested that the next chief have an employee development plan for a succession plan.

Out of 18 initial applicants, only six made it to the interview phase, five of them external. Two external candidates were recommended to be sent to an assessment center, but one is “with reservations”. Malinowski advised that at least two candidates are needed order to run an effective assessment center.

Malinowski said that many candidates lacked management experience. The committee was also disappointed in apparent lack of research on the Town by candidates. Malinowski pointed to multiple open Chief positions in the state, as contributing to recruiting issues. Member Sam Stivers expressed concern that the Town’s consultant had also been recruiting for another community.

Chief Joe Mauro’s contract ends in March. But Town Administrator Mark Purple had already spoken to him about possibly staying on longer if the position is still unfilled. Today’s announcement states:

We are expecting that this will add approximately a month to a month and a half to the original timeline for the process. While Chief Mauro still plans to retire on March 4th, he has agreed to consider staying on in an acting Chief role until his successor is appointed to ensure continuity and stability for the Department.

Prior to re-posting, selectmen will take another look at the job description. That is scheduled for their meeting on January 2nd. In the meantime, officials planned to speak with the recruiter about expectations and better advertising.

You can read more about the discussion in the minutes here. You can read the announcement here.

Updated (12/27/18 5:35 pm): I missed earlier that while I was working on the  post (and battling tech issues) the Town sent out an announcement to update the public on the status of the search. I added in the reference, excerpt and link.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Resident December 27, 2018 at 11:07 PM

Why are there no internal candidates? There are qualified people I know of that work there and have done so much for the town. Seems like the town is dead set on someone from the outside, short sighted. It doesn’t seem right to not give the firefighters that have dedicated their career to Southborough a chance at the new fire chief job. Grass is not always greener. Unhappy resident, voter & tax payer.

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2 beth December 28, 2018 at 8:30 AM

All I know is that the “resounding theme” from staff was purportedly that they wanted someone external and that the committee didn’t recommend anyone internal “based on performance and qualifications”.

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3 Look outside December 28, 2018 at 11:27 AM

When the boots hit the streets the department does an excellent job at fire suppression, there is a great bunch of paramedics that provide top notch prehospital care, and the members of the department take great pride in community outreach. Unfortunately, there are significant issues regarding candidates from within the department. There is an awful lot of fighting and mistrust amongst middle managements (the candidates). The in-house morale is at an all time low, motivation and effort among members is low, the internal operations of the department is the proverbial “dumpster Fire”. This attitude has been created by the inability for the current Chief to properly manage his personnel, he’s great with the budget but theres more to leading than the numbers. The current department doesn’t have the management structure to raise its employees to the top. Although there may be some internal candidates for this job, it’s really time for Southborough to take this opportunity to look outside its walls for a change that may be long overdue. As it stands, if one of the internal candidates were chosen, the others would not support the winning candidate. Hopefully a new chief could work on the cooperation between the current staff and properly groom its current employees for future opportunities within the department.
The current internal candidates do not support each other, how can one expect them to move the department as a whole in a positive direction? The residents deserve a great chief, but so do the employees.

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4 Concerned December 28, 2018 at 12:36 PM

Sounds to me like the inmates are running the asylum at the Fire Department. It would seem to me that Neil Aspasi would be an excellent choice if he sought the job. He’s been there and seems to be very involved with the town from what I’ve read. There must be other qualified candidates on the inside also. If the employees complained and wouldn’t support an internal hire then the town should get rid of those employees. Hopefully the selectman do the right thing and hire someone who has been dedicated to the town and not some outsider who knows nothing about the town.

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5 Resident December 28, 2018 at 3:26 PM

Look Outside: That is interesting and concerning information. Why are we just hearing of how bad the fire department is now? Has the town done anything to fix it? How did everyone allow it to become so bad? Why is the fire chief making so much money? Sounds like small town politics at its worse. It is sad that internal candidates have to suffer because of poor leadership. I still believe they should be given a chance. They might have the best ideas for change.

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6 arborist December 28, 2018 at 4:02 PM

How can you ever call our fighters inmates, what an insult, I guess you (Concerned) have never been lugged out of your house at 2 AM during a severe snow storm because you were having a heart attack. Not a nice thing to say.

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7 Scott Thomas December 28, 2018 at 5:34 PM

Reality Check – The reality is the fire service does a great job preparing firefighters to take care of your problems. Battle ready for a big fire, tech rescue or medical emergency. The lack of a visionary leadership has created a bunch of good firefighters who are unprepared to fix the current issues and be the next leader. This happens everywhere. Exactly why the morale, conflict and culture is where it is today. There is good candidates out there but takes a special one to want to take on a dumpster fire for the pay that your offering. Who’s going to afford to move into town for that money? Professional development is highly sought after these days. But many older veteran candidates lack it themselves because degrees from years ago is information decades old. You should expand your horizons and look at younger non traditional candidates. Not like the chief is putting out fires himself. That’s what his or her troops are for.

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8 ERGirl December 28, 2018 at 5:58 PM

I heard from the guys there was a good candidate that had been hired in the past by other MA. Fire Departments to consult on how to internally fix the issues identified by “Look Outside” but the guy wasn’t given a shot. #missedopportunity

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9 Poor Leadership December 29, 2018 at 7:11 AM

When have you ever heard of a Union telling the Town that they don’t want any of their own menbers to be the next Chief? This us extraordinary.

There are real problems in the Fire Department and it all comes down to poor leadership at the top. The Chief is not respected by his subordinates and the place is run like a frat house yet nobody ever questioned the Chief’s performance. Why not?

Yet last year, Mr. Purple recommended that the Chief receive a 5% raise so he would stay for one more year. Since the Chief will retire at about 80% of his salary, the Chief just received a nice 4% boost in his pension. Sweet deal.

Soeakung if raises, Mr. Purple just received a 4% raise this year and a guaranteed 3% raise for each of the next 2 years. Does a town of 9,500 really need to pay an A
Administrator about $175,000? And his staff are now on individual contracts that we can’t see the raises or vote on them at town meeting? (Beth- Can you get these contracts and post them?)

So much for the town’s financial crisis.

Let’s close the senior center so we can give bigger rsises to Mr. Purple and his staff. And let’s give a BIG raise to the outgoing Chief in recognition of his wonderful leadership.

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10 N December 29, 2018 at 8:48 AM

Do we really need a fire department?

Ambulance service is available from the private sector.

Is there any part of town that could not be served from a surrounding town?

And a huge “YES” on the absurdity of giving raises for no additional responsibility and in some cases arguably falling short of meeting requirements of job and then being shocked that we have budget issues.

Starting to question if BOS is executive oversight or being managed by the TA. Now we have 5 instead of 3 and they seem just as able to look away from the basics and no further than the current budget crisis, largely by kicking cans down the road.

What happened to the Advisory opinion shared at TM that we could do public safety building and taxes would not go up more than 3% per year?

Happy new year.

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11 Kelly Roney December 30, 2018 at 9:05 PM

Simple answer to a simple question: Yes, we need a fire department.

Other towns help Southborough because Southborough helps other towns. It’s called mutual aid because it’s, y’know, mutual.

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12 Al Hamilton December 31, 2018 at 12:49 PM

Kelly

You should not be quite so dismissive.

1. For years we ran a massive mutual aide deficit. Meaning we provided far more hours each year than we received. In effect we have been subsidizing other towns emergency services.

2. Regional Fire Services makes a lot of sense. There are significant parts of town are much closer to fire houses in Marlborough, Sudbury, Framingham and Westborough. This has never been seriously discussed to my knowledge. (In fact, I am aware of at least one effort to undermine such a discussion).

3. Other communities do not offer ambulance services leaving it to the private sector. This also has never been seriously evaluated.

In short, yes we do need fire protection services but there is no reason to believe that the way we currently provide those services is cost effective or efficient.

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13 Mike E. January 2, 2019 at 10:13 AM

Good point about the potential for regional fire services. And police. And DPW. Not far-fetched. That’s why I’m so thankful that we opted to preserve, in writing, the balance of the land that makes up the golf course. Otherwise, in 10, 20 years, it might’ve been home to the Boroughs PD, FD, DPW.

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14 Kelly Roney January 4, 2019 at 1:57 AM

Al, N’s question was not whether another way of organizing might be better. It was whether we need a fire department. Yes, we do. It might be regional, although…

Regionalization might provide economies of scale. It might not. A regional fire department would certainly be less able to respond to peak needs, otherwise there wouldn’t be any economy of scale. A regional FD would likely be slower to respond, too, on average of course.

Privatization is also not a panacea. Once you build in enough profit for the owners and C-level executives, it’s seldom less expensive. Usually it’s just another way of privatizing profit and socializing risk.

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15 beth January 4, 2019 at 8:07 AM

Al,

Kelly’s response reminds me that when you served as Chair of the committee investigating a public safety project (before you resigned) you looked at potential locations. At that time, you defended the spot on the golf course since there weren’t other locations that met the space needs and the required response times. I’m curious, can you really envision a regional setup that would meet response times for our town and others?

It’s a moot point, given how much our Town is investing in the public safety facility (unless you’re looking to make Southborough the hub). I was just curious about what it was that you thought “makes a lot of sense”.

As for the first point you made – that deficit is interesting. But I wonder about the fact that you used past tense. Does that mean it’s no longer true? Or does that mean it was true at one time and you don’t know if it still is?

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16 arborist December 31, 2018 at 9:33 AM

Time for the under performing / dishonest leaders of our town to be shown the door.

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17 FETC January 3, 2019 at 1:33 PM

I caution you on privatizing EMS and the ambulances. Many think if you contract the ambulance you will save money. But hear me out. Smaller combination Career and Call Departments who provide Fire and EMS are generating revenue. So when you give up the ambulance and contract it out, your going to have to pay for stand by services, guarantee they are available for your community AND lose the EMS transport revenue generated that is put either into the general fund or back to the fire department. That’s often times a million dollar shortfall on a couple thousand 911 EMS runs. That means your taxes are going up to offset the costs unless you lay off personnel. That said you would need to lay off a lot of firefighters to offset the burden. Not to mention the cost of your ambulance transport bill will triple or quadruple because now your laying on a for profit stretcher. You not only lose quality control, but you lose hands. Hands that are greatly needed when you have a car accident, technical rescue, or a building fire. When you have a fire that private ambulance is going to watch your home burn in the street while a really short handed fire department struggles. What seems like an easy cost effective savings statement is not always true. Proper management of the concern should assure that your current revenue generation is getting maximized, good percentage of cost recovery, adjusting the fees associated with billable services and keeping the revenue stream to assist in funding your fire department. BG.

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18 John Kendall January 3, 2019 at 8:50 PM

FETC gets it. Finally, someone gets it. And to Al, a private service has been looked at. They won’t post in town. It’s more expensive. I have no qualms with any of our fire services. Truthfully, I’d be dead if it wasn’t for our paramedics.

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