SEQUIM — The top choice to become the next fire chief at Clallam County Fire District 3 has opted not to accept the position, district officials announced.
Fire commissioners wrote in a press release Tuesday that the unnamed candidate “stood out as the clear choice” but turned down their offer, citing “it was not the right choice for their family at this time.”
Fire commission chairman Bill Miano said in an interview that he and the other commissioners were surprised it didn’t work out, but they’re not discouraged.
For privacy reasons, Miano said they won’t release the name of the candidate.
Four finalists were chosen from a field of 19 recruited by consulting firm Prothman of Issaquah.
They included Ronald Martin, mass care coordinator for Lee County Board of County Commissioners in Florida; J. Kevin Nalder, most recently fire chief for the City of Palm Springs, Calif.; John Payne, assistant fire chief of Bremerton Fire Department; and Patrick Reid, deputy fire chief for the City of Pasco.
They participated in a meet and greet on Nov. 13 and were interviewed on Nov. 14 by three groups, including fire commissioners and various fire district staffers/stakeholders and community leaders.
Initially, district and consultant officials said it would take about two weeks from the interviews for an agreement with the candidate to be announced.
Miano said fire commissioners verbally offered the candidate the position the night of Nov. 14, but the next morning they received a call from the candidate turning down the offer.
After reviewing comments from the meet and greet, interviews and discussing with each other, Miano said commissioners felt everyone was in alignment with who was the top candidate.
Commissioners met Nov. 20 and after an executive session voted to take an “operational pause” until at least their next board meeting on Dec. 5. Miano said due to the holidays and alternating schedules, they’ll likely reevaluate next steps again in 2024.
According to the commissioners’ press release, they’ve “decided not to proceed with the Prothman search for now,” which Miano said means they’ve decided not to go forward with the other finalists.
“We did the cross-country search, and now we have a view of the level of talent District 3 is able to recruit, and now we have to figure out next steps,” Miano said.
“We thought we had a really good fit with the candidate. All four are absolutely capable, but it comes down to what’s the best fit for the district.”
Prothman’s contract is still in effect, he said, and they might re-run a search in 2024.
Prothman’s contract states they would repeat the recruitment process if no candidate is chosen, or a finalist is terminated or resigns within one year from the employment date.
Interim Fire Chief Dan Orr said in an interview he plans to stay with the district until they find a permanent replacement.
“I have told the board, I would prefer them to make a really good decision and not feel rushed from that perspective, and they were good with that,” he said.
“I feel confident that they’re patient and looking for the correct fit, someone who is going to move the organization forward, somebody who can build trust inside and outside the organization.”
Orr took on the interim title earlier this year after former fire chief Ben Andrews exercised an option in his contract last April to work remotely until retiring in 2024.
According to recruitment documents, the new fire chief would make between $180,000 and $215,000 a year and oversee about 56 employees, 43 volunteers and CERT’s 500-plus membership, along with a maintenance facility and six fire stations with three of those staffed with full-time firefighters/paramedics/EMTs at all times.
For more about Clallam County Fire District 3, visit ccfd3.org.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at email@example.com.