New Carlisle hears from 3 fire chief finalists

Last chief resigned after investigation.

New Carlisle has named the finalists for the next chief of the fire department.

The city received 24 applications for the job and recently narrowed the search to three finalists. They are: Joe E. Stalder, a retired chief of Moorefield Twp. Fire and EMS; Ron Grout, a former New Carlisle Fire chief, and Steve Trusty, a lieutenant with the New Carlisle Fire Division with more than 40 years of fire service experience.

“It was tough to go through all these,” Bridge said. “We had 24 applications. Most people who applied met the minimum qualifications, so that was a big task,” City Manager Randy Bridge said.

Grout said when he was the New Carlisle chief the city faced “far worse challenges” than the department faces now. That included broken fire equipment, poor response times and state-ordered fiscal emergency.

“As a team we addressed those issues. We put the department back together,” Grout said, adding that the department created a 24-hour, 7-day a week program, and it entered into a contract with a neighboring community that created additional revenue.

Trusty, a city fire division chaplain and retired Marine, has been in fire service for more than 40 years.

“This has been my passion from the time I was 17 years old. I love doing the job. It’s just what I want to do,” Trusty said, adding that he is retired. “I am able to commit 24/7 to the division as I do now.”

Stalder said his goal for the department is to have a well-run, well-trained fire division.

Bridge said he will select the next chief after scheduling one-on-one interviews with the candidates at the end of the month.

He said he wants to hire a candidate with high character and someone who knows how to talk to employees.

“It’s that perfect balance between character and skill sets. I am personally big on character. High character, training and skills. My big thing is do you know how to operate under budget, do you know how to discuss sensitive issues with people who are underneath you, regardless of what type of organization it is?” Bridge said.

The job pays $16 per hour with a $250 stipend per pay period, which is every two weeks.

Former New Carlisle Fire Chief Bradley Phillips resigned in September after months of questions about his leadership from residents, city leaders and within the fire division.

But prior to Phillips’ resignation, council member Rick Lowrey said he planned to seek action at the next council meeting to remove him. The chief submitted a letter of resignation instead, which was read to council.

The issue at the department began with an anonymous letter mailed in April to city leaders that detailed several concerns over Phillips’ leadership and handling of the fire department. That included low morale, gaps in staffing, accusations that a firefighter had reported to work drunk and concerns about faulty equipment that included expired air tanks.

The city hired outside investigators to look into the accusations in June, but the report found no wrongdoing by Phillips.

Mayor Lowell McGlothin said issues within the department have resolved since Phillips’ resignation.

McGlothin said he was impressed with all three candidates who appeared before council members on Monday.

“Any of the three I think would do an excellent job,” McGlothin said.

He said the city manager will have a tough time deciding which candidate to select.

Councilmen John Krabacher and Mike Lowrey said they are looking for a candidate with good leadership skills.

Krabacher said all three are qualified for the job.

“I think all three of them have the citizens at heart. It’s going to be a tough choice for Randy,” Krabacher said.

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