Salt Lake City man named GV fire chief

KINGMAN - The Golden Valley Fire District has decided on a new chief.

Paul Hewitt, a 22-year veteran of the Salt Lake City Fire Department, is expected to begin Feb. 15. He most recently served as battalion chief covering a 110-square mile response area in Utah.

Hewitt was named chief Thursday by the three remaining members of the Golden Valley Fire Board after interviews of the final six candidates were conducted Wednesday.

The board had floated the idea of waiting to decide on a chief until two replacement board members could be found. Lovelle Barnett and Noel Labonte resigned unexpectedly two weeks ago.

But Chairman Marc Frederick said the board decided to go ahead with the final interviews because they didn't want to lose any of the six candidates he described as being "superbly qualified."

Frederick said Hewitt was exactly what the district needs after several months of controversy following the exit of interim chief Neal Bellew. Hewitt came with stellar recommendations, he said.

"I felt like this individual should have been interviewing me versus me interviewing him," he said.

Chiefs with the Mohave Valley and Bullhead City fire departments assisted the board during its interviewing process.

The fire board has been the embroiled in controversy after severing its relationship with Bellew in September. The board believed that Bellew walked off the job, while Bellew contended that he was taking a vacation.

Bellew was appointed to serve as interim chief for 90 days after Chief Rudy Barboa retired in April after more than 20 years with the department. In the last several weeks leading up to Bellew's departure, the board had discussed whether to appoint Bellew as the permanent chief or whether to open the process to other applicants.

The board voted 3-2 to end its relationship with Bellew, with Barnett and Labonte casting the dissenting votes.

Capt. Tony DeMaio had been serving as acting chief since Bellew's departure. DeMaio was among the final candidates for chief.

Barnett and Labonte's resignations earlier this month came within 24 hours of the board having to scrap chief interviews scheduled for that day because of a missing phrase from a meeting agenda document.

The missing phrase in question was a legal disclaimer listing the state statute under which personnel issues could be discussed in an open meeting. Without that phrase, said office manager BJ Kasso, the entire hiring process would be invalid.

The agenda gaffe wasn't cited as a reason for the resignations. Labonte gave medical issues as the reason for his resignation. Barnett did not provide a reason.

In his application, Hewitt gave a month-by-month breakdown of how he would approach the position of chief. He plans on spending his first month beginning phases of development of strategic planning, as well as reviewing the district's strengths and weakness along with the budget.