The Jasper City Council will do interviews of the top two tested candidates for fire chief, Alan Clark and Dante Fields, after Tuesday's council meeting.
The council made that decision at Friday's work session. Danny Gambrell had to leave the meeting before the decision, and Jed Daniel was not present.
A decision is needed as David Clark, who started in fire service in 1990 and was appointed fire chief in 2013, is retiring as fire chief in two weeks, Mayor David O'Mary said early in the meeting. Alan and David Clark are cousins.
Alan Clark, who started in fire service in 1993, currently serves as deputy chief, having been appointed in 2015, and fire marshal of the department. No information was available Friday afternoon on Fields.
At Friday's meeting, O'Mary noted a column in the new edition of the Alabama League of Municipalities' magazine by the group's general counsel, Lori Lein. Part of it was subheaded, "Stay in Your Lane," he pointed out.
"It is vital that every mayor and council member study and understand the responsibilities assigned to them in their role," she wrote.
O'Mary said to the council, "I studied that and I've learned it is your responsibility to hire the fire chief, and not the mayor. So I come to you today bringing you information and nothing more. Clearly it is not in my lane. The fire chief retires on the last day of February. We need a fire chief, so you folks get whoever you are going to hire hired. I'd like to know who you've hired, and we'll try to go to work."
Councilman Gary Cowen, with a light hearted approach, said, "Wait a minute, you've got a vote in this one, too."
"I have learned my lesson. I'm going to stay squeaky in my lane, and that does not fall in my lane," O'Mary said, as Cowen laughed. Councilwoman Jennifer Williams Smith also said the mayor has a vote.
Later in the meeting, Councilman Willie Moore said if the fire chief is leaving in two weeks, the council needed to do interviewing or planning, if it is the council's responsibility. However, City Clerk Kathy Chambless said civil service testing has been completed and the top two candidates have been picked, revealing to the council they were Clark and Fields.
Cowen said usually civil service picks three names, but Police Chief J.C. Poe said he understood from Clark these were the only two that passed the test.
Chambless said as soon as the council desires, she could set up interviews.
Cowen said if there is a tie vote, the mayor gets to break the tie. He recalled as for interviews such as this, the council asks questions of the candidates and then it votes. Chambless agreed that was the process.
Smith recalled each councilman had one question to ask, "but we kind of knew what it was going to be so no one would asking a double question." Chambless said, "We gave a list of questions and y'all picked them out," adding something similar could be done Tuesday. She later said she would get the council a list of questions prepared and will notify the candidates for the position to be present.
Chambless said the interviews could be arranged after the council goes through its agenda Tuesday, which council members agreed to. Chambless said Daniel has indicated he will be at Tuesday's meeting.
According to the city's website, the fire department employs 31 personnel operating on 3 shifts with nine personnel per shift, three administrative personnel, and one laborer. It operates out of three stations, and utilize one ladder truck, four engine/pumper trucks, 1 rescue truck, and one hazmat response truck. It responds to an average of more than 160 incident runs a month.