Residents a no-show at GR fire chief forum


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids city officials say they want the same public input when finding a fire chief that they received when they hired a new police chief two years ago.

But that effort becomes a challenge when the public doesn’t show up at the meeting designed to gather that input.

That’s what happened Wednesday night. A room at City High/Middle School in the Second Ward was set up for a discussion about what the public profile of the next fire chief should look like.

“I’m very excited. This is the same process we used to hire our police chief,” Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom said. “I think the evidence of this process is in our police chief (David Rahinsky). I think we made a fine selection. He’s worked well so far. It’s because he fit the profile that the community set for us.”

But the only people to show up were city officials and fire department brass. Officials ended up canceling the meeting.

Sundstrom’s take on the no-shows was that there was a lot of things going on Wednesday night, like another community forum held by the police department and a community group banquet.

“Grand Rapids is a busy town. We’re a victim of our own success here,” Sundstrom told 24 Hour News 8.

Along with four community forums, the city has also hired a firm to conduct a national search to replace the recently retired Laura Knapp. In all, the search, pre-screenings and interviews will come at a $25,000 price tag — a bill taxpayers are footing. It’s a much bigger effort than was put into hiring the last few fire chiefs.

The city is also taking suggestions on the qualities a fire chief should have at its website. So far, about 100 residents emailed in profile suggestions.

“Integrity is coming out very high so far,” Sundstrom said.

City officials say they will renew efforts to publicize the remaining forums in the hopes the public will take notice and help recruit a fire chief the city manager says will be “a superstar.”

Sundstrom says he’s looking for someone to continue what Knapp started and more.

“We’re one of the top 2 percent of all fire departments in the country,” he said. “And to continue to lead us and keep us a great department — in fact, make us even better.”

The remaining public forums are scheduled for:

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Online:

Take the city’s fire chief survey

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