COLUMBIA — The two board members who voted against making Scott Olsen the next chief of the Boone County Fire Protection District said Thursday that the other candidate, Kenneth Craft Jr., is more qualified for the job based on his education and experience. Craft also scored higher than Olsen in the measures used to evaluate the candidates.
The board chose Olsen as the Fire District's next chief with a 3-2 vote Wednesday night. Olsen has been interim chief since Steve Paulsell's resignation in November 2008, and Olsen will officially become the Fire District's third chief on Wednesday. He began as a volunteer with the Fire District in 1985 and has held multiple paid administrative positions since 1990.
Craft, 47, is assistant chief of the Bonita Springs Fire Department in Florida.
Board members Shelley Dometrorch and Phyllis Fugit both cited Craft's master's degree in public administration, and Dometrorch stressed Craft's experience in fire administration as the most important factor in her decision.
Dometrorch said Craft could have infused the Fire District with "fresh ideas."
"This is the first time in around 30 years that we were having a change, and I thought it would be good to get some outside perspective," she said.
Dometrorch also said she felt Craft "was a little more qualified based on the results of the hiring process."
That hiring process included what the Fire District called an "assessment center," in which the candidates participated in a response to a structural fire, a mock press conference, a disciplinary issue and a presentation to the board. Fugit said the candidates' scores on that assessment were similar, but Craft scored higher.
Board chairman Dave Griggs said the board considered many factors in addition to the assessment center, including reference checks, the candidates' interviews with the board and the Independent Review Panel. He said the decision was "a big picture thing."
"The assessment center was one of the many components we looked at to make the final decision," he said. "If that would have been the singular thing, Craft would have been chosen."
Still, Fugit said she thinks "things will end up fine" with Olsen as fire chief.
Dometrorch also expressed support for Olsen. "I firmly believe Scott can do the job. He's our chief, and I support him 100 percent," she said.
Craft said he was "pretty shocked" and "very disappointed" about not being chosen as the Fire District's next chief.
"If you were looking at the position as they advertised it, based upon the experience and specifications they wanted, I met and exceeded the qualifications," he said. "I thought it would have been a great fit for the board, for the department, for the community."
Craft said he did not want his comments to reflect negatively on Olsen.
"I wish him and the district the best," he said.