Search for New Fire Chief Could take 3 Months
Kent Fire Chief James Williams retired effective Aug. 12. Kent Fire Capt. Dave Manthey will serve as interim chief.
The Kent Fire Department is gearing up for several promotions in light of the recent retirement of Chief James Williams.
Williams, 53, who retired last month for health reasons, had served as chief of Portage County's largest fire department for 16 years. He spent his entire firefighting career, all 33 years, in Kent.
Kent Safety Director William Lillich said preparations are already under way to hold tests for the positions that will be vacated by Williams' retirement.
Lillich said his departure will essentially result in three promotions — similar to what happened in the police department when former chief James Peach retired — because either an existing captain or lieutenant, depending on who applies for the test, will be promoted to chief. As a result, a lieutenant will then be promoted to captain, a firefighter will be promoted to lieutenant and the department will hire a new firefighter.
The city will hold civil service tests for all the positions, and typically the chief's post has a 60-day lead time prior to a test.
"And then it depends on how much time the consultants would take to put (the tests) together," Lillich said. "We’ve already had some conversations with the state chief’s association, who has done many of our tests in the recent past, and they do a very competent job."
Then it will take anywhere from two to three weeks to a month after the test to determine who scored highest. And that person has the right to refuse the position.
In a letter announcing his retirement, Williams suggested members of Kent City Council consider adding an administrative or assistant chief position to the department to help handle the workload.
Lillich said such a move is far off on the horizon given the city's tight financial state. He added that it's going to be tough to replace Williams.
"He was extremely dedicated in his job, not just for the Kent Fire Department but on a countywide basis he was always willing to participate," Lillich said. "He’s been a very responsive and reliable administrator for us. He’s become a very good friend and I’m sorry to see him have to deal with the kind of medical concerns that he’s had, but I’m hoping this will help flush some of that out.
"But we do have some quality candidates," he said. "From bottom to top all the promotions are going to produce some good supervisors and administrators."
In the meantime, Kent Fire Capt. Dave Manthey will serve as interim chief.
The department held a small retirement party for the chief and also gave him the honor of giving him a ride home from the station in one of the department's fire trucks on his last day of service.
Kent City Manager Dave Ruller said Williams was an integral part of the city's senior administrative leadership.
"We will greatly miss his professional insights and dedication to the Kent community," Ruller said. "It's always hard to lose such a valued member of the team, but we're all hopeful that he can use this time to restore his health and enjoy his family."