SOUTHINGTON — Fire commissioners have scheduled final interviews for the top four fire chief candidates next month.
The department has had two interim chiefs since the retirement of Harold “Buddy” Clark early last year. Michael Bunko, fire board chairman, said all four finalists are “highly credentialed” and he’s hopeful one will be selected for the top job.
All four will have interviews and assessments on June 11. Municipal Resources Inc. of New Hampshire has been overseeing the candidate search.
One candidate is from Connecticut and the other three are from other parts of the Northeast, according to Bunko. The job requirements included experience with departments with volunteers and career firefighters.
An earlier effort to find the next chief failed when the commission decided the finalists didn’t have the necessary qualifications. After that, the town hired Municipal Resources.
In January, the Town Council allowed the fire department to move $25,000 from the salary line item to pay for the search consultant. Three Democratic councilors voted against the move. The finance board twice denied a fire board request for the same amount as a special appropriation.
Bunko feels the search consultant money was well spent.
“We have a bigger pool to draw from than last time,” he said.
Chris Robertson, a fire board member, said the June assessment will include real-life scenarios.
“You can see them right in front of you react and see how they handle certain things,” Robertson said.
Municipal Resources received about 20 applications before narrowing the field to the top five. One of those finalists has dropped out.
Bunko said he’s eager to get a chief hired and end a period of uncertainty for the fire service.
“It’s not healthy for the department,” he said. “It really isn’t fair for them to be in the position that they’re in.”