KINGMAN – The search for a new fire chief at Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District was narrowed to three candidates Thursday, and did not include interim Fire Chief Wayne Eder, who was hired in March by a controversial 3-2 vote.
Fire district board members Mike Collins and Jim Bailey spent about an hour at a special meeting Thursday afternoon reviewing qualifications and experience of five applicants, and picked their three best candidates on a rating system.
“Even though they weren’t scored identical, they’re in the same order of one through five,” Bailey said.
Two of them are from the Phoenix area, and the other is from California.
People who spoke at a special meeting Thursday evening were unhappy with the selections, said Patti Lewis, chairwoman of the board and one of the leaders in hiring Eder.
“It’s the people’s decision,” Lewis said. “They’re the ones we serve. I’ve had 11 phone calls today from people who were not happy with the way we left it.”
The selection committee picked three candidates to be interviewed by the board in the next couple of weeks. Both Bailey and Collins are union supporters, Lewis said.
She’s going to talk to the fire district’s attorney about interviewing all five candidates. Eder is the only one among them with a doctorate’s degree, she added.
“There was one couple that caught me after the meeting and said they talked against Eder and never said why,” Lewis said.
Eder previously served as fire chief of Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District from 2003-2008, resigning just before the district’s budget fell from $5 million to $2 million. Three fire stations were closed.
A petition was filed March 27 with the Mohave County Elections office to recall NACFD board member Vic Riccardi and Chairwoman Lewis.
The petition was filed by Donna Rushing, mother-in-law of NACFD Fire Capt. Brian Grant, who represents the United Professional Firefighters of Kingman.
The filing states that Lewis and the board majority has “wasted taxpayer dollars by hiring an interim fire chief who was responsible for wasting millions of taxpayer dollars.”
Lewis said the district’s property tax revenue has fallen to $200,000 from $500,000 since Eder left, and the number of firefighters in the district has dropped to 23 from 47.
Much of the funding for fire trucks and equipment came from grants, and those have also been significantly reduced, if not eliminated, since the Great Recession hit, Lewis added.
When Eder was hired in 2003, the district was called Hualapai Valley Fire District. It merged with Valley Vista Fire District in 2007, and later with Chloride and Truxton fire districts.
The district boundaries cover about 65 square miles.