Trousdale fire file

Ensuring a smoother process for selecting Trousdale County’s next fire chief was the focus of the Emergency Services Committee’s meeting last week.

The hiring process has been on hold since the County Commission rejected the nomination of Ken Buckmaster to head the Volunteer Fire Department by a 10-9 margin.

Prior to that vote, questions were raised about the integrity of the interview process after it was learned that two members of the panel conducting candidate interviews were listed as personal references on Buckmaster’s application. Some commissioners also expressed concern that the candidates’ résumés were not reviewed as part of the interview process, nor was the candidates’ knowledge of tactical situations considered.

Steve Cross, a representative from the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS), said he would be reviewing the applications prior to selecting an interview panel this time to try to ensure no potential conflicts of interest would arise.

“When the mayor gets the résumés he’ll send them to me. That way I can review any references, past employers, anything that I can steer away from when recruiting an assessment team,” Cross said. “I think that was the biggest problem we had last time.”

“I think that was one of the issues that maybe we can avoid with this full process,” added Commission Chairman Dwight Jewell.

County Mayor Stephen Chambers pointed out that it might be difficult to find interviewers who do not know applicants at all, but Cross said making sure there were no close ties would be doable.

Chambers said he planned to begin advertising the position later this month and conduct interviews in October. His stated goal is to have a nomination for the Commission to consider at its November meeting.

The Vidette spoke with each of the three candidates — Buckmaster, Jeremy Barnes and Jay Woodard — to see if they planned to reapply. Buckmaster and Barnes said they did not plan to, while Woodard said he did intend to reapply.

Tactical scenarios and the response of candidates will also be part of the interview process this time, Cross said, as well as some form of roleplay related to the job’s requirements.

At the request of Commissioner Gary Walsh, Cross said he would present a written proposal describing the assessment center process. The committee has called a special meeting for Thursday, Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. to hear the proposal.

“I don’t want there to be any doubt in your mind that everything is fair and above board,” Cross said. “I’m going to make sure (this) is as fair as I know how to do it.”

“I’m good with the timeline the mayor has laid out. This is something we need to move on and get resolved,” Jewell added. “We have got to have something that is above reproach.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

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