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City Council committee votes to fill Willmar, Minn., fire chief's job

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council's Labor Relations Committee voted Wednesday afternoon to recommend the council fill the position of fire chief/fire marshal that Marv Calvin will hold until Aug. 9.

City Administrator Charlene Stevens told the committee that it is her intent to fill the position and she recommended the same to the council.

Calvin, 56, will be leaving the city position he has held since 2000 to serve as fire liaison for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Fire Consortium, working with fire educators, program managers and MnSCU deans of fire training at Ridgewater College in Willmar. He begins those duties Aug. 13.

"I hate to see you go,'' committee chairman Steve Ahmann told Calvin. Ahmann said Calvin has been articulate and professional in his duties.

Calvin thanked Ahmann for his comments.

Stevens estimated that the city would need from 90 to 120 day to fill the vacancy once it is approved by the council.

In the interim, she recommended and the committee voted to appoint Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Gilbertson as acting fire chief and fire marshal until a full-time replacement is hired. Stevens said Gilbertson receives a monthly stipend of $500 for serving as a deputy chief. During the interim period, she recommended and the committee approved paying Gilbertson an additional $500 monthly stipend to compensate him for the additional duties.

Stevens said Gilbertson would assume more responsibility for oversight of the firefighting staff, equipment and support personnel. Due to the time limitation, Stevens said she would also take on additional responsibility for some of the daily supervision of staff and budget.

The city would also rely on the state fire marshal's office for assistance as well as some additional fire inspection assistance from the city's building inspectors in the interim, Stevens said.

In addition, the committee supported the recommendation by Stevens to appoint Don Ericson, Kandiyohi County emergency management coordinator, to take over city emergency management duties handled by Calvin during the interim.

Stevens said she talked to both Ericson and County Administrator Larry Kleindl before making the recommendation.

Calvin said he supported Stevens' recommendations. The council will consider the recommendations Monday, the next regular meeting.

Calvin had headed the city safety committee. Stevens said city staff will be assigned to the committee.

The city switched from a paid on-call fire chief to a full-time chief in 2000 when Calvin was hired. When he was asked how firefighters felt about the position, Calvin said he could speak for the management team and most firefighters who felt the full-time position was needed.

Committee member Denis Anderson said not filling the position would be short-sighted and he hoped the recommendation would not be sidetracked. Anderson said he and committee member Doug Reese would be absent from the council meeting and Anderson said he did not want the council vote to go to "4-4 nonsense.''

Calvin said he would like to think the council will speak favorably about filling the position so that applicants would know the position is valued.

Calvin, a Willmar High School graduate, entered fire service in 1977 and served in Apple Valley and Burnsville.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150