PORTLAND – The city has narrowed its search for a new fire chief to two out-of-state candidates but won’t say who they are.

City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said City Manager Mark Rees is in the process of conducting background checks and following up with references. Rees expects to announce the new chief at the end of the month, she said.

“Once a final selection is made and an offer negotiated, the selection will be sent to the City Council for confirmation,” Clegg said. “Ideally, this will occur (at) the first meeting in December.”

Clegg would not provide the names of the finalists, nor would she say whether they were currently fire chiefs or provide details about the size of their fire departments or the communities they protect.

This is the second time the city has opened a nationwide search to find someone to replace Fred LaMontagne, who retired in the spring. The city opened its first search last spring, drawing 55 applicants. The city was on the verge of offering the job to one of those candidates, but he withdrew his application. The city decided to reopen the search, rather than offer the job to another finalist.

The first search cost the city $20,000, including $7,500 in travel expenses to bring the candidates to Portland.

The second round drew 52 applicants and is expected to cost at least $8,500, city officials have said.

The city’s next fire chief will oversee a department of nearly 250 employees and a $16 million annual budget.

Portland has 66,000 residents, and its population swells to about 150,000 during the workday.

The budget earmarks $99,770 for the chief and $385,000 for five deputy chiefs.

In addition to running day-to-day operations of the fire and EMS departments, the priorities for the new chief will be working to increase the diversity and cultural awareness of the work force, and finding operational efficiencies.

The chief also will be expected to improve the image of a department that has been battered by two high-profile accidents involving the city’s $3.2 million fireboat.

 

Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @randybillings