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Willmar, Minn., council to seek new fire chief and fire marshal

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council has agreed to seek a new full-time fire chief and fire marshal -- but not without some debate over whether other options ought to be explored for filling the position.

The council's vote Monday night clears the way for the application process to begin.

The position opened up this summer when Marv Calvin, who has been the city's fire chief and fire marshal for the past 12 years, resigned to take a new position as a liaison for the Minnesota St-ate Colleges and Universities Fire Consortium.

Calvin's last day is Thursday.

Council members debated in the Labor Relations Committee last week whether to continue the position as a full-time combination of fire chief and fire marshal.

The committee ultimately voted to recommend to the full council to keep the position the same. But some council members continued to wonder Monday whether the city should take a step back and consider other options.

"Do we need a full-time fire marshal? Do we need the fire chief to be the fire marshal?" asked Ron Christianson.

Christianson said he wasn't opposed to filling the position but suggested looking at other possibilities. "I would like more open discussion by the council. What are our options?" he said.

Councilman Bruce DeBlieck reiterated support for a full-time fire chief and fire marshal.

"It's our responsibility to have somebody there that's in charge of that and capable of performing those duties. ... I think we should move forward and get the position filled," he said.

"I think we need a fire chief/fire marshal," agreed Rick Fagerlie.

Until Calvin came on board in 2000, the fire chief position was a paid on-call position and didn't include fire marshal duties.

Council members and city staff spoke Monday of how professional the Willmar Fire Department has become under Calvin's leadership.

"Marv has brought the Fire Department a long way," DeBlieck said.

Calvin, for whom Monday night's City Council meeting was his final one as fire chief, said he supported keeping the position a full-time combination of fire chief and fire marshal.

"I feel very strongly you need to fill the position," he said.

Charlene Stevens, city administrator, said the job will be posted both internally and externally once a salary range and job description are finalized.

There have already been several inquiries from interested candidates, she said. "I think we would receive a good number of applications."

The entire process, including selecting and interviewing the finalists, could take at least three to four months, she said.

In the meantime, Calvin's role will be taken over on an interim basis by Jeff Gilbertson. Gilbertson, who is currently the deputy fire chief, will become acting fire chief and fire marshal, with oversight for the firefighting staff, equipment and support staff.

Don Ericson, emergency management coordinator for Kandiyohi County, will take over interim supervision of the city emergency management duties that were handled by Calvin.

Stevens said the city also will have some assistance from the state fire marshal's office and some additional help from the city's building inspectors for fire inspections.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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