“Even though Mayor Driscoll has agreed with Chief Tucker that the chief would retain this authority, there is a never-ceasing fear that at some point down the road, any mayor could attempt to wrest this power away,” the letter said.
One of the arguments that Ray Krajeski, president of the Salem Firefighters Union, made in his letter is that there is no reason to change the current method of choosing chiefs.
“We do not feel as if this current process for selecting the chiefs is not working,” he wrote. “The process has produced good leaders as far back as we can remember. Why does it need to be changed now?”
Krajeski also said that a fire chief needs to have deep connections in the department because the job involves life-threatening situations. He said it would be difficult for an outsider to achieve that level of intimacy.
“Knowing your people, and how they respond in life-threatening situations, is extremely critical for the incident commander when he is making decisions and giving direction,” wrote Krajeski. “His decisions can mean the difference between life and death.”
Another concern for firefighters is that future chiefs might “only be here to pad their resumes, increase their salaries, and then move on to bigger or financially more suitable situations or departments,” he wrote.
“We feel that if the position is removed from civil service, the position will be a revolving door,” Krajeski wrote. “For example, look at how many superintendents of schools the city of Salem has had over the last 20 years. By comparison, in the last 20 years, the Fire Department has had only two chiefs.”
Driscoll previously argued in a letter to the City Council that chiefs ought to be chosen “based on a more robust and informative set of criteria than Civil Service scores alone,” though she also called the city’s current two chiefs “highly qualified and capable.”