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Tlaquepaque Village

Three years ago the Sedona Fire District found itself in the very same situation it faces today.

When I looked back through my files to find the editorial I wrote last time SFD was looking for a chief, the date on the document was Sept. 12, 2008.

After reading through my 2008 editorial, I came to the conclusion the SFD Governing Board found who it was looking for when it hired former SFD Fire Chief Nazih Hazime, which, in a way, is where the problem lies.

Boards often change every two years, and even when a member stays on, he or she can quickly change his or her mind. Board Clerk Charles Christensen was a member of the board that hired Hazime.

It’s not unimaginable to consider whomever the current board hires may not meet the expectations of the next board, or that friction could arise based on working styles.

It’s usually not a problem with the chief’s qualifications, as head of the new fire chief selection committee Joe Demme claimed was the case with Hazime. If Hazime wasn’t qualified to be a chief, our neighboring fire district would not have watched his performance over the last two years and snatched him up as quickly as possible when he resigned from SFD.

The most qualified person can have a hard time working with any other individual or a group, which is why one person, or even five, should not be solely responsible for determining criteria for selection of a new chief.

The new chief will serve every resident in the district, not just the board and Demme.

SFD needs to ask district residents which qualities and standards they deem desirable. Allow comments to be made online and for comment cards to be dropped off at fire stations. It doesn’t have to take long. Give residents a week.

This is the task Demme’s selection committee should be in charge of — collecting public input and feedback to present to the board so it can post a job description and application on its website. Instead, Demme cut off public comment at committee meetings because he didn’t like a resident’s opinion voiced at meetings and published in a letter to the editor.

Demme’s recent remarks make it seem as if he is in charge of selecting a new chief. It’s admirable of Demme to donate so many hours free of charge to SFD despite losing his bid for a board seat; however, the voters made it clear he is not the guy they want leading their district.

Ultimately it will, or should, be up to the board to hire a new chief. The selection committee is a good idea as along as its members don’t overstep their bounds and residents are allowed to participate in the process.

It’s understandable why SFD resists listening to the public in what’s become a toxic environment on nearly all levels. However, both sides need to swallow a little pride and understand if they don’t tone it down and attempt to work together the chances of them attracting a quality candidate quickly diminish. Nobody in his or her right mind would jump into the sea of sharks our district has become.

Trista Steers MacVittie

Managing Editor

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People in this conversation

  • Mary Cooke

    Excellent editorial

  • Sandi

    The public's opportunity to provide input for a fire chief -- or any public official -- comes once the finalists are selected, often during a Meet and Greet session. What has happened here is that the most basic parts of the hiring process have way too many people inappropriately involved. This is not input -- it is interference. SFD has no Human Resources department to guide the process; early work should not include public meetings. It is obvious there are a lot of people who aren't familiar with hiring processes and protocol. You are right about one thing -- the mess will discourage the best candidates.

  • Susan S.

    Excellent, excellent point. Too much of the time, people at all levels get elected to positions of public trust and, instead of viewing it as a humble servant position - which it most certainly is - and a privilege, which it also most certainly is - and instead allow their egos to become inflated with what the perceive is their power. The servant isn't better than the master. The servant should always be accountable to the master which in this case is the citizeny of the Sedona Fire District, and LISTEN. If they can't listen, perhaps they shouldn't be servants.

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