Fire chief search begins in Fort Dodge

Fort Dodge could have a new fire chief in May under a recruiting and hiring schedule approved by the city’s Civil Service Commission Tuesday.

Jim Vollmer, the city’s human resources director, said he’s hoping for a seamless transition between outgoing Chief David Luers and his successor, perhaps avoiding the need to name an interim or acting fire chief.

Luers announced on Feb. 4 that he will retire by the end of July. He has been the fire chief in Fort Dodge since Aug. 1, 2010, but he came to the city to take that job with decades of previous experience in the Burlington Fire Department, where he rose to the rank of assistant chief. Altogether, he has 36 years of fire service experience.

The schedule approved Tuesday calls for Vollmer to immediately begin advertising the position on various fire department and city government web sites. Applications will be due March 15.

Those who apply for the job will have to answer a series of seven essay questions focusing on leadership, budgeting and communication skills.

There will not be a standardized exam similar to the ones people must pass to have a chance at being hired for an entry-level firefighter or police officer position.

Stuart Cochrane, the chairman of the commission, said state law requires fire chief candidates to pass some type of examination but gives no guidance on the format of that test. He said the essay test was developed about three years ago to meet that requirement.

The Civil Service Commission will review the answers to those essay questions during the week of March 25 and grade the candidates. Vollmer said each candidate will have to score a seven or higher on a 10 point scale to be considered eligible for the post.

The list of eligible candidates will be submitted to the City Council on April 8. After the council approves the list, City Manager David Fierke will interview the candidates.

The schedule approved Tuesday anticipates that Fierke will pick his preferred candidate and submit their name for City Council approval in late April.