The Board of Commissioners for the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department met in the Fort Myers Beach Public Library Community Room on Wednesday morning, May 8, with the main agenda item their annual review of Chief Matthew Love, including any potential salary increase. Following their glowing reviews, the five Commissioners voted 4 to 1 to increase Chief Love’s wage to $175,000 annually. This is a 15.7% jump over his former pay of $151,245 and is retroactive to the fourth year anniversary of his March 21 hiring date. Commissioner Bob Raymond voted against the proposal, though he was also effervescent in his praise for Chief Love, but preferred a one-time bonus in addition to a more modest salary increase.
The Fire Board reviewed Chief Love under 7 categories: Financial Management; Personnel Management; Strategic Planning; Leadership; Community, Government & Industry; Board of Fire Commissioners; and Disaster Planning & Management. Each Commissioner rated Love under the 7 designations on a 1 to 5 point scale, with 5 the highest. Commissioner Jacki Liszak gave Love the lowest score with a 4.7 under Financial Management, while he received a 5’s in many others. Commissioner Bob Raymond rated Love 4.9 all across the categories, stating that “I do not give 5’s as that means you walk on water, leaving no room for improvement. That said, Matt comes close to walking on water!” Of the possible 175 points, the Fire Board allocated Chief Love a total of 171.9 for an average of 4.9.
In providing their individual scores, Commissioners provided comments about Love at various times: Chair Larry Wood stated, “Chief Love does everything right. I am sorry my professional career is in the rearview mirror as I wish I could use some of the leadership traits Matt has taught to me!” Vice Chair Ron Fleming noted, “His work in attaining a fair Collective Bargaining Agreement is very important to the department and community.” Liszak said, “As a new Commissioner, I could not ask for better communication and an education. I have gotten way more than I thought I knew I needed.” Commissioner John Bennett added, “Chief Love makes the Board position effortless; it is a pleasure to serve on a Board like this and I look forward to years of outstanding accomplishments!” Raymond recalled, “Fortunately or unfortunately, I was here five years ago and know the things that occurred then. We are going in the right direction and you can’t ask for more than that from a leader.”
Retain Our Best People
The Fire Board then discussed increasing Chief Love’s $151,245 salary. Bennett said, “My general feeling is he is an above-average Chief. We brought him here at a low rate to see how he would perform, and now we must bring him up.” Liszak suggested “$169,000 as that is the average rate for a Chief in our area, so he should at least be at that figure or above.” While Raymond said he thought that fair, “I suggest we also add an additional one-time bonus of $10,000.” Fleming however noted that bonuses do not count toward the Chief’s pension plan, saying “I would rather give him a bit larger increase to his base pay,” with Wood adding that he does not like bonuses.
Liszak asked her colleagues if they would favor an increase to $175,000 that would be a 15.7% raise of $23,755. She noted that not only did Chief Love’s peers recently name him “Lee County Fire Chief of the Year,” but he also took the lead to increase wages for everyone else in the Fire District, to make their pay competitive, saying, “You took care of your people, now we need to take care of you.” Fleming stated, “I do not want Matt to leave, as I am sure he gets unsolicited offers all the time. Hopefully with a very competitive wage and young kids, he may not want to leave, so I favor the $175,000.” Raymond said he could not support that figure, “Not that I don’t love Chief Love,” with Liszak assuring Fleming, “You raise a very valid point!” The Fire Board then voted 4 to 1, with Raymond against, to increase Chief Love’s wage to $175,000 retroactive to March 21, the 4th anniversary of his hire.
“Thank you,” said Chief Love. “Your evaluation means a lot to me. We have a great relationship that I know will continue for many years!” “You are doing an outstanding job,” replied Fleming. “We are fortune to have you here and I feel we are just hitting our stride.” Later in the meeting, during his report on the International Association of Fire Fighters Union District 15, District Vice President Jake Lamb said, “Congratulations to Chief Love! The Board provided him a well-deserved evaluation and I agree with your decision to pay him above the range of base pay for his outstanding performance. We want our entire crew to be on par with the pay of our peers so we can retain our best people and that certainly includes the Chief!”
Over & Under
Chief Love gave the Department’s “Mid-Fiscal Year Budget Update,” estimating that Revenue will slightly exceed projections by 0.25% while Expenditures to date are at 48.7% halfway through the October 1 through September 30 Fiscal Year.
In other matters, he reported, “The Florida Legislature recently passed the ‘Firefighter Cancer Presumption Law’ by a rare unanimous vote! The number one goal is to prevent cancer from happening to firefighters; number two is to aggressively handle it.”
Executive Assistant Fire Chief of Operations Scott Wirth provided an in-depth PowerPoint on the Fire Department’s “Hurricane Operations Plan.” “This is fantastic,” commented Liszak; “now let’s just pray we don’t need it!”
By Gary Mooney