Fire Board debates how far to look for new Fire Chief

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, April 3 2019

The Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department will be hiring a new Fire Chief this year.

Current Fire Chief Rick Jackson has stated he will be stepping down on October 1.

The Board Trustees discussed the hiring process at their meeting on March 6.

The Board of the Gabriola Fire Protection Improvement District - the Trustees who serve as the local governance for the fire department - will be putting out a job description in April with the deadline to apply to be around the end of April.

Board Chair Mark Noyon had suggested the advertising for the job could go out in May, with someone hired to start at the end of June.

Trustees John Hudson and Paul Champion proposed doing the application process through April, to allow for a longer period for interviews and selection.

Hudson said, “If we’re talking about someone being on duty in July, we want to know in advance who that person is. Ideally, with [Fire Chief] Rick giving the changeover, we want someone we know at the beginning of June.

“If we had the short list pretty early in May - I would want people to have time get in applications.”

Trustee Wilf Caron asked the Fire Chief if July 1 would be the first date for the new chief - if Fire Chief Rick Jackson would be done at the end of June.

Jackson said, “I’m not holding a specific date. I just suggested, that’s six months into the year for me and would be a good spot.”

Noyon said if something happens, Jackson is not being held to a specific date to step down.

Hudson asked if the Board had made a decision on how the job would be advertised. Would it be advertised just in-house (within the Gabriola Fire Department), or on Gabriola only, or would it be advertised more widely off-island.

Jackson said, “I say you should go in-house, then you go out. 

“Anything else is a kick in the teeth to anybody who has put in time here. You’ve got guys 25 years old who are going to be here for many years. I strongly believe in-house should be the first approach, and if you aren’t satisfied you can go from there.”

Jackson was asked during the meeting to clarify if in-house meant posting on Gabriola. He said in-house meant in-house, within the department. 

Hudson said that “one of the big arguments at the last meeting was the importance of having someone who is committed to living on island.”

Jackson said, “But that means god knows who, someone who just moved here?”

Champion pointed out that whoever applies, the Board is going to still have a selection process to determine who is hired. “We can have Mickey Mouse apply, it doesn’t matter, we don’t have to pick him.”

According to the minutes of the February 6 Board meeting, there are at least five persons within the Gabriola department who have shown interest in applying for the fire chief position.

Jackson said, “I just strongly feel we have qualified people in the department that fit the criteria, and I strongly believe it would be showing the Trustees commitment to the people that are doing the work, who are doing the studying, who show up in the middle of the night. 

“Not just the one getting the job this time, but also the young guys who are going to be around here for years, and see it taken seriously, what we do here, and appreciated.

“If it’s opened up to Joe Blow who moved here from Edmonton and was an assistant chief there, aside from not having the skills, I think it would be an insult. You guys are going to have to make that decision.”

Hudson said, “My concern is that the mandate we have is to hire the best fire chief we can. I’m very happy if at the end of the process that turns out to be one of the people from in-house.”

“I’m just not sure it makes cut out [advertising as wide as possible] at the beginning of the process.”

At this point in the discussion, the Trustees moved that the meeting be taken in camera and media were asked to leave the room. The current Fire Board Trustees are (in alphabetical order by last name): Wilf Caron, Paul Champion, John Hudson, John Lewis, John Moeller, Mark Noyon, (Chair), and Sandra Rudischer.

After the Fire Board meeting, Fire Chief Rick Jackson confirmed for the Sounder that the Fire Board would be proceeding with posting the job on-island. A posting date had not yet been set as of press time.