By Jon Wysochanski
The Avon Lake Civil Service Commission certified the results of the assessment center evaluations for fire chief at their meeting Thursday night. Three candidates underwent evaluation: Lts. Larry Grizzell, Glen Eisenhardt and Chris Huerner.
Eisenhardt scored the highest at 92 percent; Huerner and Grizzell scored 78.8 and 78.5 respectively. Eisenhardt was hired by the Avon Lake Fire Department in 2000 after beginning his career with Shaker Heights in 1998.
Fire Chief William Morris said any of the candidates would have made great chiefs.
“Any one of the three would have done a great job for the city,” he said during a Friday telephone interview. “I had no preferences. No matter who would have been the top candidate it would have been a smooth and easy transition.”
Eisenhardt said everyone who went through the examination process was highly qualified. He considers himself lucky to have come out on top.
“I was lucky enough to be the top scorer and I’m looking forward to maintaining the level of service we provide to Avon Lake citizens,” he said.
Morris said human resources director George Wintermyer is currently working on a job description for interim acting assistant to the fire chief.
“We’ve had this happen once before when Lt. Grizzell was being promoted,” he explained during the meeting. “They created a position, but not a job description, of interim acting assistant to the fire chief.”
Morris said Wintermyer plans to have the description ready when City Council reconvenes Aug. 15, and at that time the appointment can be made in order to start the transition period. He said the city decided to have a transition period rather thatn waiting to have an exam for chief after his retirement.
“I suggested we have a transition period where the new chief will have the opportunity to come in and work with me and attend meetings,” Morris explained. “It will be his budget that will be worked on for next year so it will give him an opportunity (to learn) through a transition period.”
Eisenhardt acknowledged the transition period as a good idea but he said he is not naïve in thinking it will all be smooth sailing.
“Like any transition period there will be bumps in the road and a new learning curve,” he said. “I’m lucky enough to have a bunch of fireman and officers here that will help the transition. The foundation Chief Morris has laid for us is easily built upon and I’m glad the city had the foresight to bring me in early. It’s going to be a huge help.”
Eisenhardt has made his way through the ranks and said he is eager to learn what it means to be a fire chief.
The biggest difference between a chief and a lieutenant is the level of responsibility, he said. Chief work is not as reactionary as shift work, he explained, and he will have to know what’s happening each day and what his goals are for the city.
“It’s a huge responsibility,” he said, noting that residents and businesses rely on the decisions of the fire chief in terms of safety services provided. “I’ll still be responsible for some of the day-to-day emergency scenes, but now moving to the chief’s position, I’ll be on the strategic level. I have to have the planning and foresight to see what’s happening and how our services are going to meet the needs of the city.”
Once Eisenhardt officially becomes an interim acting assistant to the fire chief, a lieutenant’s position will be vacant and a promotion will need to be made to replace him. A new recruit will need to be hired, Morris explained, because there will be a vacancy in the department upon his retirement.
“We’re trying to get all those ducks in a row and pins to lineup because it will make for an easier transition,” he said. “It will help to reduce overtime costs because there won’t be any vacancies. It just makes more sense.”
Morris will retire Dec.18 and Eisenhardt will then take the helm.
Dr. Thurston L. Cosner, who administered the assessment center evaluation, was assisted by Chief Al Zwegat of the Willoughby Fire Department, Chief Ted Whittington of the Eastlake Fire Department and Rita McMahon, Painesville city manager.