Two candidates remain in search for Fire District chief

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 | 10:24 a.m. CDT; updated 9:49 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 23, 2009

COLUMBIA — The second of four finalists for the top job in the Boone County Fire Protection District dropped out of consideration Monday.

Dave Griggs, chairman of the Fire District's board of directors, confirmed that Dominick Lanza, 58, of Beechgrove, Tenn., has withdrawn from the search for a new fire chief. Lanza was not available for comment Monday because of a family emergency in Florida.

The search committee originally selected four finalists, but one dropped out before the names of the candidates were released.

The remaining candidates’ interviews with an independent review panel at 8 a.m. Thursday will be the only portion of the process that is open to the public. The panel is a group of residents and officials chosen by the Fire District’s board of directors.

The candidates, Kenneth Craft Jr. and Scott Olsen, will participate in an “assessment center” on Wednesday and two interview sessions on Thursday, one with the review panel and one with the Fire District’s board of directors.

Both candidates are paramedics, and both have experience managing Federal Emergency Management Agency-certified search and rescue teams.

Kenneth Craft Jr.

Craft, 47, of Bonita Springs, Fla., said he has earned accreditation as both a chief fire officer and a chief medical officer.

“I have the educational background and the practical background in all the services (the Fire District) provides,” he said. “I’ve got the practical experience not only from the management side but also from the leadership side.”

He acknowledged a difference between managing volunteer and career firefighters, but he thinks he can easily make the transition to the Fire District if he is selected.

“I think it’ll be great, because I started as a volunteer for about six years,” he said. “A lot of the work I’ve done is with volunteer agencies.”

Craft said the Midwestern climate would be better for his Clydesdale, and the move would put him closer to family.

“I’m ecstatic with the possibility of relocating with the climate itself,” he said. “I’ve been in Florida for 30 years, and I’m from northern Indiana. I’m over Florida.”

Scott Olsen

Olsen, 51, who has served as interim fire chief since Steve Paulsell’s departure in November 2008, said he is already working like the permanent fire chief.

“When I was appointed interim chief, the board essentially told me to approach the position to get things done,” he said. “Operationally, we’ve been moving forward with a lot of initiatives that we’ve been working on in the last nine months.”

Paulsell became the focus of many controversies in recent years, including lawsuits over questionable firings, his connection with a falsified application for FBI bomb squad recertification and favoritism toward certain employees.

Olsen said he understands the concerns of people who think the Fire District should pick someone who didn’t work with Paulsell, but he hopes that people can separate him from the previous administration.

“They should talk to their board members about what they feel this administration — albeit interim — has been able to accomplish, how open we’ve been,” he said. “They’d be surprised to see how far we’ve progressed in this short period of time.”

Griggs said breaking from Paulsell will not be a concern when choosing the new fire chief.

“I think all that anyone has to do is look at how the district’s run today as compared to how the district was run a year ago,” he said. “It’s truly a dynamically different organization today.”

Board member John Gordon said both candidates “will be treated equal.” He said choosing the right chief is important for the future of the Fire District.

“The future will look a lot different six years from now than it did six years ago,” he said.


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