Chelmsford, MA fire chief search narrows as five candidates head to assessment center

The Brass Key | September 9, 2010 | Comments (0)

Chelmsford’s search for a fire chief to replace Jack Parow is starting to take shape.

Town Manager Paul Cohen said he hopes to have made a selection by the end of the month, at which point the individual he has chosen will be considered by the Board of Selectmen.

After reviewing nearly two-dozen applicants for the job, Cohen chose  five candidates with the help of an outside assessment center. The finalists were scheduled to participate in a series of tests at the assessment center on Wednesday, Sept. 8.

The activities on that day include role-playing scenarios such as emergency response and disciplining employees. Cohen has arranged to be on the scene during many of the evaluations to observe the finalists in action.

When finished, the assessment center will provide the candidates’ results to Cohen, along with a recommendation that he will take into account as he makes his final choice. Cohen said that he is not obligated to accept the center’s decision, but he has seen this process in action enough times to have faith in its result. He pointed out an assessment center’s services were used to select Parow himself, who has been the Chelmsford fire chief for 16 years.

“Some people interview well, but then it turns out they can’t do their job,” Cohen said. “The advantage of using the assessment center is that you get a professional evaluation other than an interview.”

Cohen said that while he wouldn’t turn to the center to screen candidates for every town service position that opened up, it is appropriate to apply the process when filling emergency response management positions such as police chief and fire chief. Cohen explained the added level of professional analysis and the simulated on-the-job situations will give him valuable insight into each candidate, which is well worth the $7,000 that the assessment service costs.

Cohen also said that he has no preference for one candidate over another, as he is confident that any of the five finalists will perform well as the new Chelmsford fire chief.

“I wouldn’t waste the time or the money on anything less,” he said.

Source: Monica Jimenez, GateHouse News Service

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