Hiring a new Wyoming chief and deputy chief will be one of Steve Clemens’ first jobs.
Clemens was one of 50 people who applied for the new position of director of emergency services and fire chief in Plympton-Wyoming. He was hired in early December and began work Jan. 1.
Council created the position to “try to bring the two departments in line, giving the same level of service across the municipality,” said Mayor Lonny Napper. The volunteer chiefs, Mike Vasey in Wyoming and Scott Jordan in Camlachie, would stay on as station chiefs.
But just before Christmas both Vasey and his deputy chief, Ron Vanderburgt, stepped down.
Vasey had applied for the full time position but was not given an interview because he didn’t meet all the qualifications the municipality listed in its job posting.
CAO Carolyn Tripp confirms the municipality only interviewed people with the listed qualifications – about one third of the 50 applicants had the listed requirements.
Tripp consulted with the Ontario Fire Chiefs’ Association and other fire chiefs about what the requirements should be for a two station department with more than 60 employees. “I was given the recommendation that the minimum standard of the NFPA Level 3 or 4 was required. Any chief can manage one hall with under 30 staff so we didn’t need that (qualification) before.”
Vasey accepts the decision but says he felt it was best to step down. “This is the direction council wanted to head with the new department; joining of the two departments is one of their main themes,” Vasey told The Independent. “I just felt it best for me to step aside and let Chief Clemens run the department the way he wants to run it.”
Vanderburgt, who was acting chief before Vasey stepped into the role three years ago, stepped down because he would have automatically become chief, a workload he wasn’t prepared to take on, says Vasey.
He adds it was a difficult decision to make, but he believes it is the right one. “This is the best time to back out and let him run it.
“It’s hard to step aside with basically the unknown ahead…but he (Clemens) is inheriting a really good department…they’re extremely good because they all bought in to the program…I hope they do the same for him.”
Both Vasey and Vanderburgt will stay on as firefighters.
Plympton-Wyoming CAO Carolyn Tripp says the new chief is trying to make the transition go as smoothly as possible. Clemen’s met with Vasey and Vanderburgt Monday to talk about the department and the next steps to take.
He also has met with the fire captains and the firefighters to introduce himself.
“The transition is going smoother than it would appear on the surface,” she says noting the fire captains at the hall will be running fire scenes for the time being.
The municipality is posting the jobs of deputy chief and chief internally at the Wyoming hall to fill the now vacant leadership roles. “There will be no temporary positions, we’ll just run with the current set up and post for the new station chief internally.”
Tripp doesn’t expect it will take long to fill the void.
And Mayor Napper expects it will be a smooth transition. “I believe the gentleman we chose (for chief) will have the ability to go in and work things out.”