Top candidates being interviewed for Lake Charles fire chief job

June 25, 2010 at 7:18 pm

BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

Lake Charles officials will spend most of the week interviewing 14 candidates for chief of the Lake Charles Fire Department.

The selection committee consists of City Councilmen Dana Jackson and Rodney Geyen; Calcasieu Parish Chief Deputy Gary “Stitch” Guillory; and Sam Wilkerson, vice president of human resources for First Federal Bank.

Jackson said the members were chosen based on their roles on the council or for their professional supervisory experience.

Interviews began Monday, with each applicant spending about two hours with the committee.

“We’re going to get that down to two to four candidates, and they will go through a second round of interviews with the mayor, who makes the final decision,” Jackson said.

The committee is looking for someone whose leadership abilities stand out and who can work well with both the firefighters and the city administration, Jackson said.

All candidates had to pass a civil service exam before they were allowed to apply. Half of the men are from the Lake Charles Fire Department, and others come from departments in Lafayette, Carencro, Basile and Ruston, Jackson said.

“There are a number of good applicants so far,” he said. “One thing I can say about all of them is they’re very passionate about being a fireman.”

Jackson said most of the men have at least 20 years’ experience and that the committee has a list of questions to ask each applicant.

“One of the big factors is overtime and how they would correct that,” he said. “It’s been a problem in the past.”

Jackson said that last fiscal year, the department was given $2.4 million for overtime, while Lafayette’s fire department — which is much bigger — only needed $500,000.

“We want a guy who can come in with a budget and stick to it, and we want him to be able to handle things internally,” Jackson said.

Of the 14 applicants, seven work for the Lake Charles Fire Department; two work for Lafayette’s; one isn’t a firefighter; and one each is from Carencro, Sulphur, Basile and Ruston, said Wendy Goodwin, city human resources director.

Goodwin said state law says the city has to select a new chief within 60 days after the civil service tests are certified by a local civil service board.

Chief David Manuel retired in April after 37 years with the Lake Charles Fire Department. He had been chief since 2003.

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