Olson to serve as temporary fire chief


Rich Olson


By William F. West
Staff Writer

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

City Manager Rich Olson will serve as Elizabeth City’s acting fire chief after Fire Chief Larry Mackey’s retirement takes effect next week.

In his weekly update to the mayor and city councilors on Friday, Olson said he’s taking over temporary management of the Elizabeth City Fire Department.

Olson said he’s assuming the fire chief’s duties temporarily because he wants the selection process for Mackey’s successor to be fair. He noted that several members of the city fire department have applied to succeed Mackey. 

Olson said he also believes his serving as interim fire chief will speed up the process of selecting a permanent fire chief.

As he customarily does when selecting a department head, Olson plans to conduct an assessment center as part of the process of hiring a new fire chief. Generally, an assessment center involves a team of evaluators with expertise in the relevant area — in this case managing a fire department. The team will gather information about applicants' ability to perform the job as fire chief and then present its recommendation about each one to Olson. The process often involves putting applicants through a series of group and individual exercises designed to simulate job conditions.

Olson estimates the assessment center process for selecting a new fire chief will take roughly 60 days. He said the city's Human Resources Department began recruiting applicants for the fire chief’s job 45 days ago.

Olson's recommendation for the next fire chief is subject to approval by city council.

Mackey’s last day as fire chief is Friday, but his retirement won’t officially start until Monday.

Mackey, who served as fire chief since early 2009, is the city’s longest tenured fire chief in a while.

Prior to Mackey’s hiring, Billy Pritchard served as fire chief from October 2004 to June 2008.

Prior to Pritchard, Gilbert Baccus Jr. served as chief from 1999 to 2004, when he retired.

Prior to Baccus, the fire department had three fire chiefs in less than a decade.