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Mayor announces interim fire chief, plans for next steps

Posted: September 25, 2012 3:32:58 PM PDT

Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville announced recently her selection of Assistant Fire Chief Roger Christensen as interim chief of the Bellingham Fire Department. He will serve as interim chief beginning Oct. 12 -- when Fire Chief Bill Boyd retires -- until a permanent replacement is found.

Christensen is a 23-year employee of the Bellingham Fire Department. He has managed various fire and emergency medical services operations during his tenure with department. In 2004, he became Division Chief/Medical Service Officer for Whatcom Medic One and in 2007 was promoted to Assistant Fire Chief, in that position overseeing Whatcom Medic One, the fire/EMS dispatch center and overall department operations. He volunteered as a county firefighter and served as volunteer fire chief for Fire District 14, in addition to working in the private sector, prior to joining the Bellingham Fire Department in 1989.

"Assistant Chief Christensen has extensive experience in the Fire Department and in our community," Linville said. "He is a skilled, capable leader and will make sure we continue to provide high-quality, responsive and caring emergency services. He also has been involved in many key public safety issues and initiatives, such as discussions about countywide emergency medical services and marina fire safety improvements. He will serve us very well during this time of transition and I am very grateful he is willing to take on this role."

Boyd announced earlier this month he will retire effective Oct. 12 to take a position in the private sector, while Bellingham Police Chief Todd Ramsay announced his intention to retire at the end of 2012.

Linville also said she expects to move forward fairly quickly to recruit for new fire and police chiefs, expecting to fill both positions using open, competitive processes. She said she hopes to have a new police chief on board when Ramsay leaves at the end of this year, while the process to fill the fire chief position is expected to extend into 2013.

"I will work carefully with Police and Fire staff and bargaining unit representatives, my department head team, City Council, community members and others to look at these two positions, study public safety organizations in other cities, consider our community's unique needs, and make sure that our next steps provide us with the expertise we need to lead us successfully into the future," she said.

She said after considering hiring a single public safety director to lead both departments, she's determined that it is best for Bellingham to continue to have separate chiefs. This is due in part to the size of the departments they manage and the overall size of our community, the lack of demonstrated cost savings in combining these two positions, and the number of pressing, complex public safety issues needing leadership and management attention.

She said that while she intends to continue having two public safety chiefs, she will use the coincidence of the two chiefs retiring to consider ways to streamline overall management and administration of these large departments.

"These retirements present a unique opportunity to consider ways to streamline, such as by sharing more responsibilities between departments and increasing collaboration among staff citywide," Linville said.

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More information:

Assistant Fire Chief Roger Christensen (Downloadable high-resolution photograph)

Bellingham Fire Chief announces retirement, career change

Bellingham Police Chief Ramsay announces retirement

 

Media contacts:

Janice Keller, Communications Manager, 360-778-8100 or jkeller@cob.org

Mayor Kelli Linville, 360-778-8100 or mayorsoffice@cob.org

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