Obviously, if you have read my blog or my column in The Selma News, you know that I disagree with the following commentary by Brad Crone (whoever that is). He attempts to dissect the situation, but not with great clarity, unfortunately. He probably only knows what he has read and may not be aware of the politics behind the situation. It is not a matter of "boneheaded politics" on the part of the town manager (put the blame where it belongs, if you are going to place it, by the way). It is boneheaded politics on the part of some small town volunteer firefighters who have run their own show for far too long.
This has devolved into a power struggle in its simplest form. The town must have accountability to the tax payers. The firefighters want to be autonomous and decide their leadership. Sorry, but that is poor business and public administration. Soldiers do not elect generals. Police officers in Selma do not elect their chief. Nor should a fire department elect its chief from amongst their numbers. It is about being responsible to the town and serving the TOWN'S interests, not those of the membership of the department.
As for the comment "The Town of Selma should offer the current fire chief a respectable salary that is competitive and will enable him to transition from his current position with the town" my first point is
1. Who says he wants to be a full time fire chief instead of his current job?
2. Who says we want him to take that job, anyway?
3. The pay being offered IS respectable for the town's size.
4. It is entirely possible that the current chief and his predecessors are responsible for the problems the department is experiencing, so why perpetuate that?
As pertaining to the comment "It’s just boneheaded politics that result in a break down of communications and dialogue because people get too wrapped up in their own power base", it is NOT a matter of breaking down of dialogue AND if it was, DIalogue requires TWO parties...that cuts BOTH ways. Quitting, dumping off turn out gear in a mayor's driveway and communicating threats is NOT dialogue. Yes, I said communicating threats. Stan Farmer and myself have both gotten threatening emails. The mayor was threatened by a firefighter just last night. That is not dialogue, that is a tantrum.
The comment "The town manager’s idea to move towards a full time fire chief is valid – his inability to establish a successful dialogue has been disastrous. Good managers and good politicians understand the art of compromise" my comment is simply WHO SAYS THAT THIS SITUATION IS ONE THAT REQUIRES COMPROMISE? I say it is NOT particularly so. It is a situation that requires someone having the balls to stand up and do what should have been done 20 years ago...wrest power away from those who should not be wielding it.
Below is the column by Brad Crone.
Town Manager Picks A Silly Fight
The level of stupidity displayed by politicians and bureaucrats never ceases to amaze me. Take for example, the growing unease between the Selma Volunteer Firemen and the Selma Town Council and Town Manager.
The debate is silly on multiple fronts.
Let’s dissect it.
It’s silly that the town manager and town council do not understand the tremendous political dynamics of the volunteer fire department. The fire department in any community is a pillar of politics on multiple fronts. Across the country, the fire departments are often an element of society’s glue that is an impenetrable component.
It’s just stupid for the town manager and town council to pick a fight that expends political capital with an organization that has always had the concrete support of the public at large.
When your house is burning are you going to call the town council or the fire department? The answer is obvious.
It’s just as stupid for the fire department not to realize the times are changing and the need for a professionalized department is a legitimate service expected by the general public.
So you see two pieces of concrete facing off against the other. I bet the town manager and town council blink first. They have to because the art of politics demands compromise and they have the authority to lift themselves out of the dirt and grime of this fight that they picked.
The Town of Selma should offer the current fire chief a respectable salary that is competitive and will enable him to transition from his current position with the town. Provide him the elements of a position that modernizes the fire department’s procedures and protocols and allows him an opportunity to extend and expand the scope of service and professionalism his department and volunteers offer the public.
The volunteer firemen must also compromise in the sense that Johnston County is changing – and doing so rapidly. That demands change in how government services are extended to its citizens.
For the volunteer firemen, they can continue to provide a vital service of giving back to the community. But they must also realize that there is a need to expand training and to offer first responder emergency services to the citizens.
The town is moving in the right direction. It’s just boneheaded politics that result in a break down of communications and dialogue because people get too wrapped up in their own power base – not in trying to improve service or making service more responsible, accountable and efficient.
The town manager’s idea to move towards a full time fire chief is valid – his inability to establish a successful dialogue has been disastrous. Good managers and good politicians understand the art of compromise, the art of dialogue and the need to bring people together even when they have opposing views in order to accomplish and implement a policy for the public good.