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Chief-in-waiting

A longtime Nevada County firefighter has been tabbed to be the next Grass Valley fire chief, and he could start as soon as July 9 if the City Council votes to hire him.

City Administrator Dan Holler will ask the council to hire Tony Clarabut to replace Jim Marquis, Holler said Tuesday. Marquis recently announced his resignation to take a position as a battalion chief in Washoe County, Nevada.

Marquis’ decision to leave has created “an opportunity” to expand consolidation efforts with other departments, Holler said.



Clarabut retired in 2006 as the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection unit chief for Nevada, Placer and Yuba counties. He is uniquely qualified to help develop joint-powers agreements with other departments, Holler said.

“It’s time to take a hard look at it,” he said. “No fire organization can be successful on its own.”




Mayor Mark Johnson and Councilwoman Lisa Swarthout said Tuesday they would likely vote to hire Clarabut, even though he wouldn’t be a full-time employee. They both support efforts to more formally consolidate the operations of the Grass Valley, Nevada City and Nevada County Consolidated fire departments.

“I think the whole attitude has changed,” Swarthout said. “The issue now is not so much territorial, but who can provide the best service at the least cost to taxpayers.”

The three departments now follow a “consensus model” instead of a more formal operational plan, Marquis said. He also applauded the decision to consider Clarabut for the position.

“He’s a heck of a catch. He’s a principal-driven leader. He just does the right thing, and he works very hard,” said Marquis, whose last day is July 25.

Clarabut’s proposed contract limits him to 960 hours a year because he is a retired state employee who collects benefits from the Public Employees Retirement System, or PERS.

The city plans to pay the 54-year-old Clarabut $58 an hour for one year, although Holler said he will evaluate how the arrangement is working in about six months.

Clarabut, who moved to Nevada County in 1983, worked for Calfire for 35 years before he retired. After his retirement, he worked for 15 months as the fire chief in Ukiah, Calif., where he tackled organizational issues.

He’s not at all comfortable with retirement, Clarabut said.

“I always look forward to a challenge,” he said.

The Grass Valley City Council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 125 E. Main St.

To contact Staff Writer Pat Butler, e-mail pbutler@theunion.com or call 477-4239.


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