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Commission Considers Hiring Fire Chief from Within, from Outside

The special executive session for the Covington City Commission Monday morning at City Hall was for the purpose of interviewing potential chiefs of the city's fire department. Commissioner Shawn Masters refused to attend the session arguing that this decision should be reserved for the next commission that will be sworn in January. At The River City News Facebook page a debate erupted over the executive session and Commissioner Steve Frank offered up the information that Alan "Chip" Terry, who retired from the fire department over the summer and is currently running as a write-in candidate for city commission, may be in contention for the job.

"You can also add a candidate for Commission who now may want to change his mind and be Fire Chief," Frank wrote. Contacted by phone Monday afternoon, Terry confirmed to The River City News that he has in fact expressed interest in the chief's position but that he has not formally applied.

"I have not changed my mind one way or the other. I'm still one hundred-percent committed to wanting to get elected," Terry said. The 26-year veteran of the fire department and resident of Licking Riverside said that he sent the commissioners a private email that said in part that he would be interested in seeking the position should it not be filled within a time frame that is suitable to them. "I had a lot of soul searching and I want to be part of the city going forward. If they're still struggling to find a chief, I let them know that I would step up."

In the meantime, Terry is continuing with his write-in campaign and said he has two meetings Monday night, two others Tuesday, and spent the previous weekend walking door-to-door and stuffing envelopes. 

The Covington firefighters union, Local 38, which has endorsed Terry's candidacy, has called for the city to hire from within. Two current Covington firefighters have applied for the position: Dan Mathew who has served as acting chief since Chuck Norris's retirement last summer and Chris Black, president of the union. No other candidates were announced publicly but it is known that outside candidates are being considered.

"I trust this commission will make what they think is the best decision for the city, I just disagree with how they are handling it," Masters wrote at RCN's Facebook page. "There is absolutely no reason why this decision has to be rushed. None. The department is in good hands and will be until the next commission is sworn in."

"I agree with Shawn (Masters) wholeheartedly," wrote Chuck Eilerman, another candidate for Covington City Commission, at RCN's Facebook page. "Besides the timing, we have at least two excellent candidates from within the (Covington Fire Department)." He continued, "I believe the department is in good hands with the interim chief. Chris Black is an excellent possibility as well."

Steve Frank offered another comment that may imply that a decision for a new chief, while still being made by the current commission, will not happen until after the election. "The winners of the commission race will be brought in for consultation and having their say, but this commission will be making the decision," Frank wrote at RCN's Facebook page. "End of story."

Frank also mentioned that he is "leaning" toward hiring from within.

PHOTO: Covington fire truck/RCN file