Lincoln Twp. forms fire chief search team

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

STEVENSVILLE — Lincoln Township is making one thing clear: It wants a full-time fire chief.

With two trustees absent from a special meeting Tuesday, the Township Board voted unanimously to create the full-time position and to hire Jeff Swanson – a consultant the township has worked with – to lead a fire chief search team.

The team is comprised of nine people who represent various levels in Lincoln Township government. Among team members are Clerk Stacy Loar-Porter, trustees Marc Florian and Deb Peterson – who also serve as representatives on the fire board – and Police Chief Dan Sullivan.

“We tried to get two from the fire board, two from the township board, our building inspector, our police chief, our attorney and the Medic 1 director,” Supervisor Dick Stauffer said.

Stauffer said the board hopes to have a full-time fire chief selected by the beginning of 2017. Hagar Township has done the same thing as Lincoln Township by hiring Swanson to help find a fire chief. Hagar Township participates in North Berrien Fire Rescue.

The search team will solicit candidates and listen in on the interview process to make a recommendation to the board. Stauffer said Swanson will bring a few firefighting assessors from the Chicago area for additional ideas.

During the interview process, Swanson is expected to cover the managerial responsibilities and community relations attributes expected of a full-time fire chief.

“Once the assessing team has surfaced four or five candidates, the top member will be presented to the Township Board for approval,” Stauffer said. “We look forward to hiring the very best fire chief we can find.”

Swanson, who has more than 20 years of organized fire service, was one of the two consultants the township hired in April to conduct a study on whether a fire chief was needed. The study, which cost the township $9,500, showed a full-time fire chief was needed based on the township’s size and the services it’s been lacking.

“Our first order is to review the job description,” Swanson said in a Friday phone interview. “We’re going to get the requirements and put together a brochure highlighting the department, Lincoln Township and what an ideal candidate would be. Once all that’s done and we get that approved we’ll put the ball in motion for candidates to apply.”

Swanson said the search team’s meetings will differ in frequency each month, but said they plan to communicate weekly.

Trustees previously determined a fire chief’s base salary and benefits would cost the township about $83,000. The salary of a full-time fire chief was added to the township’s 2016-17 budget in case a fire chief was hired prior to the fiscal year’s end.

The township has never had a full-time fire chief. However, the position has been discussed among several boards and committees for more than a decade.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Aug. 19, 2016)

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