New fire chief: Town expects hiring process to last through spring

It’ll likely be late spring, early summer by the time Ridgefield has a new fire chief.

“Hopefully, May, June — it depends on all the pieces working together,” said Laurie Fernandez, the town human resources director.

Fernandez is putting together a process for the Board of Selectmen to follow in filling the position, which has a salary range of $93,500 to $135,500.

Acting Chief Jerry Myers — the former assistant chief — will continue running the department, which he has done since December when the town began investigating an alleged policy violation by the former chief, Kevin Tappe. That investigation was halted with Tappe’s retirement Jan. 5.

“I have to meet with the board and they have to tell me if they want any changes with the description, and then I have to post it,” Fernandez said.

The search will likely be wide-ranging, but the selectmen could choose from within the department.

“There’s no requirement. It’s a non-union job,” Fernandez said.

“You want to make sure you’ve done a thorough search. If they choose to go out, they’d also look at internal people.”

The opening would be posted with firefighters’ and fire chiefs’ associations, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, local newspapers, and the New England Minority News — to reach minority applicants.

“It’s a far-reaching net,” Fernandez said. “We want to get as much coverage as possible. The past process we had people applying from Ohio.”

There’s a paper screening of the applications.

“We go through to see how they meet the minimum qualifications of the job as outlined by the board,” Fernandez said, “and that group will be sent a follow-up questionnaire and self-assessment. And based on those responses we’d bring people in for a panel interview with outside fire chiefs.”

Setting up the peer review can slow the process.

“That panel is made up of three fire chiefs from across the state,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. “And getting three chiefs that are available on the same day is difficult.”

“Then,” Fernandez said, “the board can choose how many of them they want to see, from those recommended by that panel.”