City government

City names new interim fire chief, waits on UCD merger

By From page A1 | May 24, 2012

Scott Kenley. Courtesy photo

Scott Kenley. Courtesy photo

The city of Davis announced Tuesday that a new interim fire chief has been hired to replace Bill Weisgerber, who retired this week, ending a two-year stint as temporary head of the Davis Fire Department.

Scott Kenley, a senior consultant with Renne Sloan Holtzman Sakai LLP Public Law Group, who has worked in fire service for more than 40 years, will take the reins from Weisgerber.

“The city of Davis looks to Kenley not only to provide day-to-day management of the city’s Fire Department until a permanent fire chief can be hired, but also to utilize his proven abilities in organizational analysis and team building to provide leadership for the department, the city organization and the community,” a news release said.

However, because a search for a full-time chief is actively under way, Kenley is not expected to serve long.

Deputy City Manager Kelly Stachowicz said he is expected to lead the department for at least “several months.”

Kenley also boasts a variety of consulting experience and currently works as a consultant for the same firm the city has hired to negotiate with its labor groups.

According to the Public Law Group’s website, Kenley has represented many cities throughout California, facilitating negotiations with various labor organizations, mainly police and fire.

“Having an individual on board with the variety of experience Interim Chief Kenley has — as a firefighter, a fire chief, an organizational consultant and a negotiator — makes him uniquely positioned to assess the department and put together management and operational structures to best serve the community,” Stachowicz said in an email.

Kenley, who has worked as fire chief for Montclair, Lodi and Brisbane over the course of his career, also served as president of the California Fire Chiefs Association, as a member of the State Board of Fire Services and as chairman of curriculum development for state fire marshal certification.

The new interim chief also has consulted with Citygate Associates LLC and served as part-time fire chief for the city of Angels Camp.

‘Set the stage’

“I look forward to working collaboratively with the men and women of the Davis Fire Department, the city and the community to set the stage for the new fire chief,” Kenley said in a statement.

“The goal is a smooth transition from three years of an interim management team to a more permanent management team with a long-term vision for the department.”

Kenley will be paid an hourly wage of $69.48.

Weisgerber stepped down from his position because he had exhausted the number of hours he could work as a retired employee at a PERS agency.

“With new PERS rules in place for retired annuitants, he had no more hours left to work for a PERS agency,”  Stachowicz explained about Weisgerber’s departure.

“PERS has a limit of the number of hours for an individual who is retired under the PERS system and working for a PERS agency. They cannot exceed this number of hours without compromising their existing retirement.”

Weisgerber began his stint as the city’s interim fire chief in March 2010.

“We appreciate the fine service provided to the city of Davis by Bill Weisgerber and look forward to working with Scott Kenley and utilizing his many years of experience in fire services,” City Manager Steve Pinkerton said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the city continues work on a potential merger with the UC Davis Fire Department. The process began in July 2010, when the City Council unanimously approved the first phase of the plan that it believed would save both parties money while improving service.

Under the pilot project, the two agencies shared a single fire chief, an assistant chief and division chiefs for training and operations.

The two agencies followed that facet of the merger in July 2011 with a consolidation of dispatch services — which are performed out of the Davis police station on Fifth Street — as well as collaboration on training opportunities whenever possible.

“We believe it is the segue to improving fire services for both communities, and it demonstrates fiscal responsibility,” Weisgerber told the council at the time.

“We think this is good government, period,” added John Meyer, UCD’s vice chancellor of administrative and resource management and a former Davis city manager.

But various issues have resulted in a “pause” in the merger plan, city and university officials said.

“Not surprisingly, it’s complicated,”  Meyer said several weeks ago. “But the idea is still a great one. It should not be perceived that there isn’t an interest in consolidation.”

Meyer said UCD is waiting for Davis to conclude its contract negotiations with city firefighters.

Those negotiations involve not only pay but also merger-oriented matters such as the implementation of standard operating guidelines, a shared policy manual and the elimination of boundaries between city and UCD jurisdictions.

Higher pay in Davis

There’s also the issue of firefighter compensation, and the belief among some that UCD’s pay will rise to the level of Davis fire crews.

“That’s not going to be sustainable for us,” Meyer said. “We will not get there, so if that’s an expectation, that’s not something that’s going to occur.”

Weisgerber, the former interim fire chief, said the agencies will continue to combine training efforts and share command staff responsibilities, with the hope that merger plans will resume in the fall.

“We look forward to continued progress in the months ahead,” he said.

— Reach Tom Sakash at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @TomSakash. Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected]; follow her on Twitter @laurenkeene

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected], (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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