After more than a year without a true fire chief, Nevada County Consolidated Fire District selected an interim chief Thursday. The district tapped Jerald Johnson, a retired fire chief who spent his career as an assistant chief in West Covina, a town in Los Angeles County.
“Mr. Johnson is very strong in management skills,” said board chairman Warren Knox. “He is a strong people manager and has a lot of experience in budget development.”
Johnson’s focus as assistant chief was personnel management, public education programs, and inter-agency coordination, Knox said.
Johnson will begin in his new role Monday and will make about $58 per hour with a $156 per diem for 60 days.
“This organization needs a CEO,” Knox said. “The board should not be involved in running the day-to-day operation of the district.”
His contract could extend to as much as 120 days, Knox said, as the district searches for a permanent replacement for Tim Fike, who was officially ousted in late June 2012 following a physical altercation in March with a fire mechanic.
In the interim, Division Chief David Ray assumed the helm of the fire district but made it known he preferred tactical firefighting over administrative management.
Ray retired April 30 after a 39-year career.
Johnson currently runs a consulting business based in Gardnerville, Nev., Knox said. The interim chief will be provided a district vehicle during his tenure.
The hiring of Johnson was not without controversy. Johnson was first proposed as a candidate for interim chief by Knox and Director David Hanson at a special meeting April 30.
At the time, several directors, including Keith Grueneberg and Bill Habblett, expressed dismay that the district had contracted $28,000 with consultant Ron Coleman to seek candidates; Johnson was not among those he discovered.
However, Knox said in April that Coleman had reviewed Johnson’s resume and given approval.
In the meantime, Consolidated Fire’s search for a permanent fire chief continues.
“I talked to our consultant this morning, and he said we have a cadre of good people,” Knox said.
The district will begin interviewing final candidates in mid- to late-June, Knox said. Consolidated Fire, which has a Joint Operational Agreement with the cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City, will seek commentary from members of both entities during the process, Knox said.
“The JOA is still on the table,” he said.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4239.