Firefighter's Union upset by lack of involvement in search for Chief

WICHITA, Kan. As the city of Wichita whittles down the search for a new fire chief to two finalists, the local fire union grows frustrated at the lack of involvement in the process.

“It just seems a little late, and a dollar short when you are down to two candidates,” says Matt Schulte, IAFF Local 135 President. “We just wanted to make sure everyone was involved,” Schulte explains. “We were kind of told we would be involved. We weren’t allowed into the process until tomorrow (Thursday).”

The Union posted this message to it’s Facebook page saying:

Wichita Citizens: The City of Wichita is currently in the selection process for a new Fire Chief. There has not been transparency or community involvement, unlike previous department head selections in recent history, such as the selection of Chief Gordon Ramsay. The lack of citizen involvement by city leaders is of great concern.

Schulte points to Wichita’s recent search for a police chief as an example of good community involvement.

In December of 2015, the city announced Gordon Ramsay as one of two finalists for Wichita Police Chief. That search featured a variety of public input.

“It worked very well, when they did the police chief search,” Schulte says. “The fire Chief is public safety just like the police chief.”

Wichita City Manager Robert Layton sent us the following a statement in regards to the Fire Chief search:

Unfortunately, the Fire Union’s comments about the process are overly broad and misleading. This standard process mirrors our approach for all other department director hires, except the Police Chief. It should be noted that the WPD public interview sessions were added as part of the WSU assessment recommendations. The search for the next Fire Chief has in fact involved a wide range of stakeholders including citizens, Fire Department staff, and City management in the semi-finalist interviews. Elected officials, the Fire Union’s executive board and the City Manager will interview the finalists. Again, this is our standard process.