By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The town is moving closer to filling a couple of positions that were vacated as a result of the November election which saw the Town Council change from majority Republican to all Democrat. In particular, the Town Council Wednesday night directed Acting Town Manager Joe Duarte to enter into negotiations with one of the applicants for the fire chief position.

Town Council President Mark Schwager declined to identify the candidate.

The town has not had a permanent fire chief since former Town Manager Gayle Corrigan dismissed Russ McGillivray in November 2017. The position was filled by two interim fire chiefs, first Christopher Olsen from New Hampshire (until January 2018), then Kevin Robinson of Marshfield, Mass. (who served from January to November). Both spent three to four nights in Rhode Island each week, paid for by the town. Manager Corrigan said last summer she was waiting to hire a permanent chief until the court decided on the legality of imposing a 56-hour work week mid-contract. The court ruled against the town in August.

Interim Fire Chief Thomas Mears and Council President Mark Schwager in December.

EGFD Capt. Thomas Mears has been filling in as chief since Robinson’s departure in November.

The Town Council opened a search for a permanent fire chief in December and approved the formation of an ad hoc hiring committee comprised of Duarte, Personnel Board Vincent Ragosta and North Kingstown Fire Chief Scott Kettelle. That panel reviewed the 24 applications that were received, interviewed 10 applicants, then narrowed the list to 3, who were interviewed by the Town Council this past Tuesday and Wednesday.

Although Town Council meetings have come fast and furious since late November, the next meeting it not until Feb. 25. Council President Schwager said he is out of town that day so any action on a new fire chief will most likely not come until the Town Council meeting March 11.

Meanwhile, the town received seven applications for finance director – the window for applications closed last Friday. Schwager said he was not sure how many of the applicants had state Dept. of Education certification, a qualification that was desired but not mandatory. The Town Council and the School Committee are still trying to figure out if hiring a single person to serve as finance director for both the town and the school department will work. A joint committee examining the issue is due to report its findings in March.


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