Thu, July 18

Jerome appoints fire chief
Fire commissioner objects to chief, assistant choices

Over the objections of council member and fire commissioner John "Bob" Bouwman, the Jerome Town Council voted to approve Terry Molloy as fire chief and Rusty Blair as assistant fire chief.

Both men were elected by the members of the fire department and were required to go before the council for approval.

Molloy was approved as acting fire chief after Michael Butcher resigned from the position earlier this summer. Molloy's approval was initially held up by the council's desire to make changes to the department's bylaws and personnel policies. Mayor Jane Moore requested that those policies be brought more in line with the town's code.

An agenda item to approve Molloy and Blair during the Sept. 15 council meeting was tabled. At that meeting, Bouwman and council member Jeanie "Jet" Tennant requested that Molloy, who was on vacation, come before the council to answer questions and present his qualifications.

During Tuesday morning's special council meeting, both men were present.

The council members all had copies of Molloy's résumé and copies of various certifications, which include Firefighter I and II, fire inspector, hazardous materials, and fire-ground hydraulics. He has been on the department for years and has worked his way up through the ranks to captain, assistant fire chief and acting chief.

Molloy also was instrumental in developing the fire department's auxiliary. He serves as president of the auxiliary, which is used primarily to raise funds for the department.

Bouwman, who resigned from the department more than a year ago after achieving the rank of captain, asked Molloy if he intends to continue as president of the auxiliary after being appointed as chief. Molloy said he has already asked someone else about taking over that position.

Bouwman asked if Molloy was going to take classes to become an Emergency Medical Technician. Molloy said he would rather remain in a position to be in command of a situation rather than treating patients directly.

Bouwman told the council he doesn't agree with how the fire chief selection takes place.

"In the past, this has been traditional," he said. "The fire department elects the fire chief and the council approves [the department's choice]." He said that the town has been changing.

"I believe this is a department head and should be advertised," Bouwman said. He said the best person should be chosen.

"The council has the authority to promote from within," Moore said. "This person within the department is qualified for this position."

Council member John Scarcella said that in the future the council may want to change the process. "But right now, this is the procedure."

"I'm confident with Terry," Scarcella said. "I think he'll do a fine job."

Bouwman then said he sees a problem with the system because council members aren't knowledgeable about fire service practices. "We rely heavily on the chief," he said.

Moore said she assumes that Molloy will do a lot of planning and that the council should pay attention to the department. "But I don't want to see the council micro-manage departments."

All members of the council except Bouwman voted to approve Molloy as chief. His annual pay for the part-time position is $12,900.

Bouwman also objected to the approval of Rusty Blair to the position of assistant fire chief. He questioned Blair's decision-making process during responses to fire and medical emergencies.

Blair said safety is always his first priority. He said the crew comes first, victims second and property third. "If we can enter a building and save somebody, we're going to do that," he said.

Moore asked Bouwman if he had concerns about Blair.

"I always have concerns," Bouwman said. "My concern is -- my opinion -- Rusty has demonstrated a pattern of making decisions on what Rusty wants to do instead of what's best for the scene."

Molloy disagreed. "Rusty has proven himself over and over," he said. Molloy said command skills come only with experience.

The council approved Blair as assistant fire chief.