A 41-year Oregon Fire Department veteran was appointed last week to fill the vacant chief position - and lead the department as it works to improve response times and address other concerns.
Oregon City Council last week narrowly approved with a 4-3 vote Mayor Mike Seferian's recommendation to name Ed Ellis, 62, as fire chief. The Oregon man, currently assistant district chief in station three, will begin the top job June 7 and be paid about $74,000 a year.
Improving department response times and morale are among top priorities for the about 116-employee department, Mr. Ellis said. Among options for improving response times is having part-time firefighters assigned to eight-hour shifts during the day, he said.
"We're going into a change mode," Mr. Ellis said.
He added of his appointment: "I feel very confident about it, and I'm happy I was chosen by the mayor."
Mr. Ellis was appointed fire chief with the stipulation he complete within a year the job's minimum state certification requirements of 240 training hours, Mayor Seferian said. His annual pay will increase $3,500 once that training is complete, although it will not be retroactive to his appointment date, Mayor Seferian said.
Three candidates, including Assistant Fire Chief Paul Mullen, were considered for the post left vacant by the retirement earlier this year of Bill Wilkins. Mayor Seferian and Mike Beazley, Oregon city administrator, talked to 28 firefighters about their suggestions and interest in the job.
Mayor Seferian said he backed Mr. Ellis because he had the most support within firefighter ranks and is best suited to lead changes, including ending dissension between full-time and part-time personnel and among stations. Mr. Ellis likely will retire in three to five years, when Mr. Mullen would be in line for the job, he said.
Oregon City Councilmen Terry Reeves, Mike Sheehy, and Clint Wasserman voted against Mr. Ellis' appointment during a special meeting last week. Mr. Sheehy, however, said during the meeting he supports Mr. Ellis now that he has been appointed.
Mr. Ellis assured council he would work with Mr. Mullen, other chiefs, and rank-and-file to make improvements in the department.
"We're going to fine tune it, and we're going to make it a little bit better for you," he told council members.