Officials with the City of Owensboro are in the process of selecting a new fire chief to run the Owensboro Fire Department after Chief Steve Mitchell announced his retirement in mid-August. This process could last somewhere between one and two months, depending on whether the City decides to hire someone internal or external for the position.
Mitchell is set to officially retire on Nov. 30. He previously told Owensboro Times that he’d like to work alongside the newly-hired fire chief before his retirement begins.
Manager of Human Resources Josh Bachmeier said 43 applicants from across the country have applied for the job of OFD fire chief. While some of the applicants currently hold positions at OFD, several external candidates — one who lives as far away as Nevada — have sent in applications as well.
Bachmeier said nearly all of those 43 candidates were qualified for the position, but that the 43 applicants will be whittled down to a select few before interviews begin.
“We haven’t had any interviews yet but, by and large, most of the applicants were qualified for the job,” he said.
A screening panel has been working alongside City Manager Nate Pagan in whittling down the large number of applicants to between six and eight of the most qualified candidates.
“Forty-three applicants is a good number,” Bachmeier said. “I was estimating between 40 and 50, so 43 was right in line with that expectation.”
Bachmeier said the City advertised the position through several national recruitment agencies, many of which focus directly on fire service.
If an external candidate is selected to run the City’s fire department, Bachmeier said it could take quite a bit longer for them to get started in the new role than it would take an internal candidate. An external candidate would have to pass a polygraph test and have a background check run, among other requirements.
“It varies greatly — if an internal candidate is selected, it’s a whole lot less work we have to do,” he said. “If the person selected is internal, we could have someone in the position by mid-October. If they’re external, it could be into November.”
Bachmeier said the City is looking to compete the first round of interviews by next week. Mitchell was one of several individuals selected for the screening panel, including a couple of other fire chiefs, Bachmeier said.
“Hopefully we’ll have a selection after the first round,” he said. “If there were to be a follow-up interview, it would probably only be between two candidates.”