Santa Clara is narrowing down its search for a new fire chief and public response will play a part in who ends up leading the City’s fire department.
The City opened up a comment period in March and received dozens of responses from community members and people who work within the City. City Manager Deanna Santana is reviewing those responses and will use the feedback to help in the recruitment effort.
Many of the respondents said they would like to see someone from outside the City that would be willing to make changes.
“The ideal fire chief is someone who has several years of experience at that high level,” said one community member. “It should be someone from outside the department, who can lead in a new way.”
“While Chief Kelly has done a good job, the current culture in the fire department is one that often rewards loyalty to safety members rather than what is best for the city,” responded a Santa Clara City employee. “It is imperative that the cycle is broken and new standards for performance and personal integrity and respect are established. Although I am not a Santa Clara resident, I am a City of Santa Clara employee who cares deeply about staff and this city.”
This is the first time in seven years the City has opened up a search for a new chief. In 2012, current Chief Bill Kelly was promoted to the post. Kelly was with the Santa Clara Fire Department for more than 11 years before he took over the position of chief.
Many other survey respondents said they would like to see someone with strong ethics, values, fairness and the ability to communicate. It was a sentiment that was echoed in the job posting.
“The ideal candidate will be an innovative and collaborative leader who is well-equipped to address evolving 21st century service demands in a dynamic urban environment,” according to the job post. “He/she will be an inspiring leader and mentor with a career that is defined by uncompromising integrity, an exceptional work ethic and extraordinary service.”
When asked what priorities community members would like to see the new fire chief take on in the first year, responses varied. Many people want him or her to uphold the small town culture of Santa Clara by recruiting new firefighters who are already current members of the community.
Others say updating firehouses and fire equipment should be a priority. And still others want to make sure the fire department’s response time is not sacrificed as the City continues to grow in both residential population and the number of large businesses moving into the City.
The application period will end on April 14 and interviews will take place in mid-May. The City hopes to have a new chief in place before Chief Kelly retires at the end of June.