Board of Selectmen
October 11, 2012
Community Hall Annex
Present: Leroy C. Clark, Chairman; Peter Letsky, Vice Chairman; Michael Pantos, Clerk; Joseph R. Becker, Sheila H. Dibb and Nancy M. Macaruso, Secretary.
6 pm – Seth Knipe
The Board presented a number of questions to candidate Knipe. He explained the differences between a weak vs. strong chief. When asked what accountability and integrity mean to him, he responded that accountability is to know the job at hand and to complete it; being held accountable for the outcome whether good or bad. Integrity is the moral fiber of a person; their honesty. He sees himself in Rutland in five years whether he gets the chief’s job or not. In five years, he’d like to see a second ambulance, 24/7 ambulance coverage and rotation of vehicles for maintenance as needed. When asked why Rutland should hire him, he stated that he’s got 25 years of fire service experience, 2nd generation firefighter and chief, 13 years as a chief and was the youngest chief ever in the
state. He stated what differentiates him from the other candidate is that he is presently improving efficiencies in the department such as making policies/procedures, the ambulance billing has improved, there’s no learning curve and he’s ready to hit the ground running. Not meeting timelines by having a plan becoming derailed is the biggest issue that causes him to feel discouraged or stressed. Another is when there is a major incident and there’s a lack of manpower or a delay in mutual aid. His coping mechanism is to sit with everyone involved in the incident and talk through it and see where improvements can be made. When asked why he didn’t implement any changes during his acting status, he stated that he was told not to and to wait until a permanent chief was in place (to let the incoming chief establish any necessary changes as he may choose to move in a different direction). He stated his file is open and contains many outstanding reviews. Most of the people he worked
with in Hubbardston have moved on but the former Selectboard Chair is listed as a reference and would encourage the Selectmen to contact him. He doesn’t see discipline of the current staff as a problem as he doesn’t socialize outside of work with them thereby separating himself from the boss/employee relationship which was difficult in Hubbardston. One pet peeve is that the Town has supported the fire department with the purchasing of new apparatus but that they contain outdated equipment which is not properly mounted to the truck. He feels there are presently too many trucks which cannot be fully staffed at this time. When asked about the steps to be followed should a major catastrophic event occur, he explained proper procedure. Mr. Becker asked how he would handle an ethics problem regarding an employee, he explained that he would bring in all parties involved and listen to all sides; would try to handle in house. Regarding the fire staff’s
presence at the two interview sessions, he stated that there was no conversation among the crew about their attendance at the interviews. Most were off duty and the others were on their supper hour. He further stated that they have a vested interest in the final decision.
7:20 pm – Bradley Weber
The Board posed the same questions to candidate Weber. He gave his understanding of the weak vs. strong chief and emphasized that a strong chief still has to work with the Selectmen / should always be a team effort. His definition of accountability was described as when he or one of his employees does something, the Fire Chief is ultimately responsible for that action and end result. He feels he, as Chief, is responsible for all those below him. Integrity was defined as doing what’s right when no one’s looking no matter who you’re dealing with. In five years, he hopes to be at an Annual Town Meeting giving a positive report. He’d like the Fire Department, in five years, to be highly trained and to have everyone want to be a part of it. He has 23 years of experience, some as a
chief officer. He worked from the bottom up through the ranks. He’s upgraded his resume with knowledge, classes, experience, etc. and sees that as the only way to advance. “Retired in Place” firefighters cause him to feel angry or discouraged. He described them as employees who only do enough to get by, using minimal effort. He feels his present chief would say he’s sorry to see him go, but he was a good friend who’s loyal and trustworthy. When questioned on how he would handle a major catastrophic event, he explained the proper procedure and steps to follow. Mr. Becker asked how he would feel if he were offered the job knowing the acting chief is the other finalist. He answered that he knows everyone will be looking at him very closely, he’d treat everyone fairly, act appropriately and do the job. He would look at the budget/ funding and call volume in order to try to expand/improve the ambulance coverage. He’s concerned
about the airbags being removed from the rear of the ambulance and would look to fix that. The trucks and equipment here are beautiful – it’s obvious the town supports the fire department. Some vehicle maintenance is required by NFPA standards, but feels strongly in keeping all vehicles maintained properly. Fire drills in public housing/senior centers is a high priority; keeping people safe is top priority. He decompresses by listening to music, taking vacations, playing soccer and teaching classes. Mr. Becker wanted to know how being away from his family for an extended period of time would affect his job performance. He replied that there’s Skype and cell phones; would travel home on occasion & holidays, etc.; 6 months away would be difficult but not impossible. He would do more training in the down time at the station. Ms. Dibb asked him what his top three changes would be to which he responded: 1) vehicle maintenance 2) career
development/education 3) unsure about a 3rd until he’s able to really look into the department. Ethically you always have to do the right thing to protect the citizens. He would not be afraid to seek out a mentor to help with the transition and to other department heads for budget assistance. He believes in following the chain of command / to never go above a superior’s head without talking to them first. Firm believer in progressive discipline – policies should be in place regarding union and management. Some discussion on how long disciplinary letters remain in someone’s file; Mr. Weber stated that it depended upon the infraction.
Conversation at the end of the interviews was positive. Mr. Pantos stated that the two finalists chosen were the best choices. Ms. Dibb feels Mr. Weber has a massive learning curve to deal with should he be the next fire chief. Mr. Becker still has a concern with Mr. Knipe’s history of departure in Hubbardston. Will add final decision to Monday’s agenda pending reference checks. Each board member will contact the listed references for both candidates.
Mr. Becker moved to adjourn. Ms. Dibb seconded. Vote unanimous. Meeting adjourned at 7:20 pm.
Nancy M. Macaruso, Secretary
Board of Selectmen