Champaign starts fire chief search — again

CHAMPAIGN — City officials — for a third time — will begin accepting applications for the open fire chief position.

The job has been vacant since former Chief Doug Forsman retired in December. City officials had hoped to have a new chief on by then, but they reopened their search in November after a first pool of candidates did not meet the "full breadth" of what they were looking for.

The city has brought in at least 10 people for meetings and interviews with fire department and city personnel and community members since they began searching for a new chief last year. One of those people was an internal candidate, then-Deputy Chief Steve Clarkson. Clarkson was not selected, and he has since retired.

City Manager Dorothy David said the second round of applicants produced some quality candidates, but the people under consideration for the job pulled out on their own.

"We had some qualified candidates in this pool and some candidates that we were very interested in," David said. "But unfortunately those candidates withdrew from the process for personal reasons."

They will start from scratch with new applications on May 12. David said the city is considering new ways to find candidates who may be interested, but officials have not yet made any decisions on what those might be. Either way, they did not want to wait before they reopen their search.

"Obviously this is important to us and we don't want to delay, but we are going to consider additional steps in the process," David said.

In the meantime, longtime Capt. Dave Ferber will keep command as acting fire chief, as he has since Forsman retired. David said she does not think the department is lacking good leadership or direction without a fire chief.

"Absolutely not," David said. "I have complete confidence in my department."

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