At Tuesday’s meeting of the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District Board of Commissioners, Matthew Love of Cimarron Hills, Colorado was selected as the board’s top choice to fill their vacant Fire Chief position.
Interim Chief Tom May has served as acting chief since August 18, 2015 when the board placed Fire Chief Darren White on administrative leave through the end of his contract on September 30, 2015. White has since filed a breach of contract lawsuit against the district.
Love, a native of Colorado, has served in the fire service for 18 years and as Fire Chief with the Cimarron Hills Fire Department there since 2008. Prior to that, he served 11 years with the Colorado Springs Fire Department.
During the final interview process during Tuesday’s meeting, Love commented that he believed he was a good fit for the Fort Myers Beach Fire District due to his experience and skills.
“I believe that my level of experience and my dedication to taking this department from where they’re at, to a level of excellence makes me a good fit. I’m not looking for just a few years here. My values include professionalism, integrity and faith… I believe that I can take this department to a level of excellence. You have fantastic resources.”
Responding to Chair Carol Morris’ question about whether a Chief needs to be a better leader or manager or both, Love replied, “Both, I tend to mix the two a little, but there’s a need for both. My master’s degree is in Leadership and I have a healthy respect for management. You can manage really, really well, but if there is no real compassionate leadership involved in that, it doesn’t happen because people want it to, but because they have to.”
Concluding his interview, Love told the board that he is ready to lead the district.
“You need a very specific type of leader. That’s why I’m standing here. I think I’m the right fit for your organization. I’m a younger fire chief and I bring 18 years of fire experience with me. I have had great success working with younger departments. I believe in excellence in service and continuous improvement…I’m not retiring anytime soon. I want to spend a long time with your district. I have proven leadership, and the ability to take an organization where you want it to go.”
Two other finalists were interviewed, Mike Tucker, currently with the Florida State Fire College after serving 13 years as Fire Chief of The Villages Public Safety Department and Terry Vavra, retired Fire Chief from Buffalo Grove, Illinois. Another finalist, Ron Parrish of St. Lucie Fire District withdrew his name from consideration late Monday night.
During board discussion after the interviews, it quickly became clear that all five commissioners felt that Matt Love was their first choice, with several of them mentioning the energy they felt he could bring to the job.
When the board votes were tallied and combined with the results of district staff rankings and Profile XT results, Love came out at the top with Vavra second.
Morris indicated that Love will need to pass mandatory exams in the next few days and then Morris and the board’s attorney Andrew Salzman will negotiate a contract with him.
Jim Steffens of JTS, the firm hired to manage the search for a new Fire Chief, offered the board some advice, urging them to let Chief Love handle any complaints from district staff. He also urged the board to keep Interim Chief Tom May onboard at least through the first budget cycle so he can share his experience running the district.
Commissioners thanked the finalists, praising the high quality of candidates who sought the position. They also thanked the community interview team that selected the four finalists, noting that they spent two entire days vetting candidates.
Vice Chair Ted Schindler then commented that our community recently lost long-time Fire Commissioner Betty Goodacre after an extended illness.
“She was an unbelievably nice person and a great asset to our community. Vaya Con Dios, Betty!”
A Memorial Service for Goodacre will be held on Saturday, January 16 at 11am at St. Raphael’s Episcopal Church, 5601 Williams Drive, Fort Myers Beach.