Lima needs to be able to attract the best possible candidates when an opening occurs for either the police or fire chief, yet it has closed the doors for allowing that to happen.
The city remains entrenched in a system that allows it to hire only internal candidates. No one from outside the departments can be considered for the job.
Last week, Fourth Ward Councilor Rebecca Kreher called for that to change. We urge the rest of council to follow her lead, as such a move is long overdue.
The issue was brought before voters five years ago when they were asked to approve proposed changes to the Lima City Charter, which is the blueprint for how city government operates. At that time, only people holding the rank of major in the departments could take the civil service exam to become chief.
Voters approved changes in the charter that cleared the way for an expanded pool of applicants, should city officials want to go in that direction. But neither City Council nor the civil service board have yet to take any action, thus keeping the old system in place.
Multiple ways exist for choosing a new chief.
What we see as a much better system is to take the chiefs completely out of civil service, making them appointees by either the mayor or council. The new chief would be hired on a contract basis. At the end of that contract, his or her performance would be evaluated for renewal.
Another option would be for council members to allow outside candidates to take the civil service test.
The bottom line is the applicant pool for such important jobs should be as broad as possible. The increased competition for the top jobs would benefit Lima taxpayers, with more people bringing new ideas, attitudes and experiences to the interview process. There’s no reason to think an internal candidate wouldn’t be selected, but no one should automatically expect to be the next in line in either department.
The timing is right to make a change. The positions are solidly filled right now with Police Chief Kevin Martin and Fire Chief Bruce Black, so there’s nothing politically working behind the scenes.
What is troubling is to think council has yet to take action after voters gave it the green light five years ago.