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LETTER: We must question city's process in hiring of new fire chief

"To summarize, was this hiring based on convenience and patronage rather than qualifications and experience?"

Re: "Meet Everett Cooke, St. Albert's new fire chief," The Gazette, Sept. 15.

Congratulations to Everett Cooke on being appointed as St. Albert’s new fire chief. Unfortunately, I feel the city's administration must be questioned about the hiring process used to fill this position and if due diligence and proper guidelines were followed.

This position was posted and filled within seven days. Did the administration follow proper recourse and conduct interviews with a minimum number of qualified candidates?

The fire chief reports to the deputy chief administration officer, who came to the City of St. Albert in 2019 from the City of Beaumont, where he served as the general manager, Community and Protective Services, between 2015 and 2019. Ironically, Mr. Cooke has been the fire chief in Beaumont since 2017. This previous working relationship again begs the question if proper protocols were followed in this hiring and at minimum is administration being fully transparent?

The service delivery model is drastically different in the City of St. Albert compared to the City of Beaumont. Beaumont Fire Services operates from one fire hall and has four full-time staff (including the fire chief), who provide services Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. All evening and weekend emergency responses are delivered by 40 volunteers. Managing a fire service with the scope and size of St. Albert is not comparable.

Given past issues with fire services leadership and a non-confidence vote earlier this year, as noted in the Gazette article, has the labour relations between firefighters and administration been diminished? Was the firefighters' union engaged as part of this hiring process?

To summarize, was this hiring based on convenience and patronage rather than qualifications and experience? St. Albert deserves a leading fire service, and the hiring process of the new fire chief seems questionable. Furthermore, is this what St. Albert citizens should expect with all departments and senior administration? 

Ken Porter, St. Albert