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Council extends fire chief job offer

The Brainerd Fire Department has a new chief. The Brainerd City Council Monday decided to offer the job to Timothy Holmes of Nisswa. The city's Civil Service Commission had certified the top three candidates for council consideration, and recomme...

Brainerd City Council member Kelly Bevans (left) and council member Sue Hilgart listen to city Planner Mark Ostgarden during a city council meeting Monday. (Brainerd Dispatch/Spenser Bickett)
Brainerd City Council member Kelly Bevans (left) and council member Sue Hilgart listen to city Planner Mark Ostgarden during a city council meeting Monday. (Brainerd Dispatch/Spenser Bickett)

The Brainerd Fire Department has a new chief.

The Brainerd City Council Monday decided to offer the job to Timothy Holmes of Nisswa.

The city's Civil Service Commission had certified the top three candidates for council consideration, and recommended offering the job to Holmes. The other two finalists were Jason Caughey and David Schliek.

The job offer is contingent on Holmes passing a variety of evaluations prior to taking over, including a physical fitness test, psychiatric evaluation and background check, council member Mary Koep said. Holmes' potential start date would be July 13.

The salary offered to Holmes is at 85 percent of the base rate in the city's salary administration plan, Koep said.

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Chip Lohmiller has served as the interim fire chief for Brainerd since former Fire Chief Kevin Stunek retired. At a Personnel and Finance Committee meeting prior to the council meeting, city Administrator Patrick Wussow said Lohmiller has indicated he will stay on as interim until the new chief can take over.

The interview panel ranked the candidates and evaluated them in three areas, with different weights given to each: 20 percent on their written test; 20 percent by their training and experience; and 60 percent on their interview.

Holmes scored the highest at 80.167, Caughey was second with 64.775 and Schliek was third with 59.292.

Holmes has been the Nisswa assistant fire chief with the Nisswa Fire Department since February of 1998.

His present employment is as a sergeant with the Nisswa Police Department. He's been with the police department since October of 1996. At the police department, he coordinates the Safe and Sober Program and other grant projects. In 2002, he became a member of the Crow Wing County Tactical Team. He's been a fire instructor with Fire Instruction and Rescue Education since July of 2012. He served as a Brainerd firefighter from 1994-97.

In other business Monday, the council approved terms of a contract offer for the position of city administrator to Jim Thoreen, who the council had decided to offer the job at a June 8 meeting.

The council interviewed Thoreen on June 8, after the previous candidate it had offered the job to, Patrick Christopherson, withdrew himself from consideration May 27. Christopherson's withdrawal sent the council back to the drawing board to consider candidates who weren't initially invited for interviews.

Council members Gabe Johnson and Sue Hilgart had developed the terms of the contract offer. The salary offer starts at step C of the city's salary administration plan, Johnson said. He is also not interested in participating in the city's longevity plan.

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Longevity is a more "antiquated" part of salary administration, Johnson told the Brainerd Dispatch following the meeting. Basically, if an employee holds a position for a certain number of years, they get a percentage bump in salary.

"It's pretty old-school," Johnson said. "It's really not necessary now."

Thoreen wants to help the city implement a paid-time off system as opposed to its current sick leave and vacation day time off system, Johnson said. The city is offering Thoreen three weeks of vacation as well as a starting balance of 160 hours of sick leave.

Thoreen will also be declining certain benefits the city could offer, which will save the city money, Johnson said. He is seeking a $3,000 one-time reimbursement for relocation costs, but if he voluntarily leaves the position within two years, he will be required to pay back the relocation stipend.

The city attorney will now draft an employment agreement based on the city's terms, which he will present to Thoreen Tuesday. Thoreen will then evaluate the offer with Sharon Klumpp of Springsted Inc. and let the council know of his decision.

"I think having it at step C works for us financially, I think Sharon made it sound like this will work for him financially," Johnson said. "I think we're going to have a new city administrator with this."

SPENSER BICKETT may be reached at 855-5859 or spenser.bickett@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/spenserbickett .

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