Cannon Beach may go with outside interim chief

Mike Balzer

CANNON BEACH — The Cannon Beach Rural Fire Protection District Board is leaning toward bringing in an outside interim to stand in as fire chief until a permanent leader can be found. The search process will be discussed at a meeting at 5:30 p.m. today.

Former chief Mike Balzer was dismissed in mid-October FOR personnel issues and Assistant Chief Frank Swedenborg has been covering his post since. The Cannon Beach Rural Fire Protection District provides firefighting and emergency service to the North Coast communities of Cannon Beach, Arch Cape and Falcon Cove.

At a special fire board meetinglast week, Swedenborg noted he would fill in as chief until March at the latest. Then he suggested the district not go with an outside interim as it “mixes the pot for the firefighters.”

“My main goal is continuity of the fire department,” he said at Monday’s regular board meeting at the fire station.

But presented with the possibility of a permanent chief not to come until after March or during the middle of budgeting season, he said a Special Districts Association of Oregon interim might be best. He added having someone with better knowledge of the industry in the post might relieve Capt. Matt Gardner of extra duties he has taken on, as well.

“This gives us some time so we’re not rushing it,” Special Districts Association of Oregon representative Bill Anderson said.

He added that the retired chiefs they recommend are familiar with the budgeting process.

If the board chooses to go that route, Anderson said the organization could provide three fire chiefs for board members to choose from. He or she would step in until the search for a permanent leader is over.

Swedenborg is ready to retire and not looking to fill in permanently for the fire district. He works about 12-16 hours over a four-day week.

Anderson said the Special Districts Association of Oregon could also assist in the search process. It typically brings in five candidates to speak with a community and technical panel, comprised of neighboring fire chiefs and the police chief, to narrow the search down to three or less candidates.

“Our goal is to have someone that is a community fit run your department,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the board needs to begin updating the job description and figuring out what the chief’s salary and benefit package will be. The district paid Balzer $36 an hour for 2,000 hours annually.

If it chooses to go with an outside interim, Cannon Beach could have one within two weeks.


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