Fire District chief finalists stress honesty, participatory management

Friday, September 18, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 9:48 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 23, 2009

COLUMBIA — For more than an hour each on Thursday morning, the two finalists for the top job in the Boone County Fire Protection District told a nine-member independent review panel about their qualifications, goals and management styles.

The panel’s interview with Interim Fire Chief Scott Olsen and Ken Craft Jr., assistant chief of the Bonita Springs, Fla., Fire Department was the only public portion of the two-day selection process.

On Wednesday, the candidates participated in an assessment that featured activities such as response to a structural fire, a disciplinary issue and a presentation to the Fire District’s board of directors.

For most of the afternoon, the candidates were interviewed individually by the board in a closed session.

Both candidates received the same series of questions, and both talked about the importance of participatory management and valuing volunteers.

“The biggest thing (volunteers are) looking for is to be valued, respected, appreciated and recognized,” Craft said.

Both listed honesty as one of their most important traits, and Craft said honesty would be an important factor in gaining the trust of people in the Fire District if he is chosen. He said he would be coming in “fresh” as someone who “has no ties."

Olsen, who has served as interim fire chief since Steve Paulsell’s resignation in November, discussed changes he’s made to alter the culture of the Fire District’s management. He said giving more independence to division chiefs, specifically by giving them control of their division’s budget, is part of the “teamwork system” he believes in.

Craft said from what he’s seen so far, Olsen would be “the ideal person” to be second-in-command if Craft is chosen to be fire chief.

Division Chief Gale Blomenkamp said the board doesn’t have a deadline set for hiring a new chief.

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