Search for Fire Chief needs to be wider than Gabriola

Editorial

Wednesday, April 3 2019

The Gabriola Fire Protection Improvement District Board is an elected local government.

Just like the Islands Trust, and the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN). 

The Fire Board Trustees are empowered, as an Improvement District, to requisition taxes from Gabriola property owners, just like the Islands Trust, or the RDN.

They are a local government.

The Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District #68 is our other locally-elected board.

A key difference with the Fire Board is rather than voting in new trustees every four years, the terms are staggered so only two or three Trustee positions are changed each year at the AGM. This year’s AGM is scheduled for April 24. Two Trustee positions are up for election.

Trustees are not active firefighters - though a number of the current Trustees have a firefighting background.

Criticism of the Trustees/Fire Board should never be considered to be criticism of the firefighters, or the Fire Chief, of the Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department. Much as criticism of the elected officials of the Trust, RDN, or SD#68 should not be considered to be aimed at the people who work for those organizations.

The Gabriola Fire Chief is a de facto Chief Administrative Officer, serving as the connection between the Fire Board and the Fire Department.

There are more officials elected on Gabriola to serve on the Fire Board (seven), than on the Islands Trust (two), or the Regional District of Nanaimo Board (one).

Until recently, the Fire District collected more taxes per $100,000 than any of the other local governments. (The RDN can now lay claim to that ‘title’)

With respect to the current Fire Chief as well as those within the GVFD who wish to be hired as the next Fire Chief - those on the Fire Board who are advocating for a ‘wide open’ advertising campaign for the Fire Chief’s position are in the right.

If for no other reason than for the Trustees to be able to say they cast the widest net they could for their next CAO.

When the RDN last replaced their CAO, they actually assigned an interim CAO while they conducted a CAO search. SD#68 took similar measures when looking for a new superintendent/CEO. 

The SD#68 search actually included a public consultation in which they asked the public what they felt is required of the next Superintendent/CEO.

The Fire Board is opting to have a straight handover from the current Fire Chief to the next one. No interim period.

In the case of the RDN, they hired someone from outside the organization. In the case of SD#68, they ended up hiring from in-house.

In both cases, those doing the hiring were able to state they had truly hired the best of those who applied for the job.

There is nothing to say that the Fire Board won’t hire a Gabriolan applicant. But if the process is not wide open, the Board won’t be able to say they hired the best person. It won’t just be the Trustees who wear that decision - it will also be the person hired. 

The new Fire Chief - the new CAO - no matter how skilled, dedicated, and perfectly suited to the task they may be, will be the person hired through a flawed process.