By Alison Ecklund

Larson Newspapers

In an unanimous decision, the Sedona Fire District Governing Board agreed to begin contract negotiations with its next possible fire chief.

On Saturday, May 9, the board voted 5-0 for a contract to be sent to Nazih Hazime, currently the fire chief for the city of Dearborn, Mich., in hopes he’ll become SFD’s chief.

The selection will be official once the board approves the contract, which is currently under negotiations, Human Resources Manager Mandi Garfield said.

The decision came more than one year after former Fire Chief Matt Shobert resigned to move to California.

After Shobert’s resignation in April 2008, the district was led by Assistant Chief Bill Boler, who filled in as interim chief until August. Since August, a four-person management team — consisting of Boler, Assistant Chief Terry Keller, Business Director Karen Daines and Fire Marshal Will Loesche — has acted as chief.

Hazime visited Sedona in February with six final candidates to interview with the board and meet the public. After Hazime and one other finalist underwent psychological evaluations Feb. 13, the district hired a firm to do background investigations and site visits on the two.

Dearborn is a city of 100,000, where Hazime has a staff of 122 and deals with a $14 million budget.

He has an associate’s degree in fire science, is a 2008 graduate of the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer program and a 2001 graduate from the school of Fire Staff and Command at Eastern Michigan University.

Hazime is a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Society of Executive Fire Officers, Michigan Association of Fire Chiefs, Southeastern Michigan Association of Fire Chiefs, Western Wayne County Fire Mutual Aid Association and the Regional Association of Firefighter Training. He was recently appointed regional advocate for the Everyone Goes Home program under the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, overseeing six states.

Since SFD policy requires the fire chief have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, board member Liza Vernet asked if the board would have to change its policy or require that Hazime receive a degree in the contract.

After reviewing all that Hazime is involved in, Board President Don Harr considers his experience to be equivalent to a Master of Business Administration, he said. Even so, the board could consider changing district policy to allow for an educational waiver, he said.

Hazime is “overwhelming” qualified, board member Charles Christensen said. Since SFD advertised for a chief with a BA or equivalent, there’s no need to impose any additional educational requirements on the new chief, he said.

Board member Bert Berkshire agreed.

Board members also discussed the possibility that Hazime may face difficulty selling his house in Michigan. Board members discussed the possibility of helping the new chief with housing, given the troubled real estate market.

Hazime is tentatively looking to start Tuesday, Sept. 1, in Sedona, he said, but plans to attend meetings before his start date.

“I’m looking forward to interacting with the community and the members of the fire district,” Hazime said. “I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone and start attending meetings as soon as possible.”

After five years as Dearborn’s chief and a firefighter for 25 years in Michigan, Hazime admits he’s also excited for the change in climate.

Between the weather, the mountains and the opportunity, Hazime and his wife, Laurie, are excited to start a new chapter, he said.

He and his wife have vacationed in Sedona many times, he said, and have always enjoyed hiking the red rocks and Sedona’s community.

Alison Ecklund can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 125, or e-mail

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