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Mayor: Chief choice easy


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Allmon
Allmon


When Columbus Fire Chief Joel Thacker submitted his resignation to Mayor Kristen Brown, she knew quickly whom she wanted as his successor.

Brown turned to David Allmon, a 29-year Columbus firefighter described by the mayor as the top internal candidate during an initial search that ended in the hiring of Thacker, a longtime firefighter in neighboring Johnson County.

“I was impressed with (Allmon) myself in personal

interviews, ... and he was the top choice of firefighters,” Brown said.

The mayor said the decision to name him to the department’s top position was an easy one. It was the same way for former State Fire Marshal Roger Johnson, chosen to be Allmon’s emergency management consultant based on his experience with best practices in all firefighting disciplines.

Because this year’s fire-chief search process was still fresh, Brown said no one else was considered to replace Thacker, who was hired in mid-March and had been on the job since May 22.

Brown explained that she hired Thacker because he brought a different

perspective.

“What I tried to accomplish with an outside chief is trying to bring best practices, standards and regulations,” Brown said.

The mayor said she was pleased with Thacker’s efforts toward more training for

firefighters.

She said leadership training classes recently were concluded, and firefighters just taught technical rope rescue skills to Cummins Inc. employees. Firefighters also have trained at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Jennings County.

Brown said Thacker submitted his resignation Aug. 30 for personal reasons, although The Republic has been unable to reach him this week to add his own insight on the resignation.

“I was neither surprised nor disappointed,” Brown said of Thacker’s resignation.

She would not elaborate on other aspects of his performance as fire chief but said having a chief that continued to live in a neighboring county was “less than ideal,” even though Thacker’s Johnson County residency met the city’s requirement to live in Bartholomew County or in an adjacent one.

“I would have wanted to see an eventual move into the community,” Brown said.

The mayor believes the combination of Allmon, 60, and Johnson, 66, will be good for the city.

Allmon retired from the Columbus Fire Department two years ago but is president of the local firefighters union. He also is a veteran with the State Fire Marshal’s task force on fire investigation and arson.

He applied for the job of fire chief when former Mayor Fred Armstrong was first elected, about 16 years ago.

“Everything you learn as union president is how to run a better fire department. I hope to apply those principles and meld that with what the fire department is now,” Allmon said.

Johnson said he’s known and worked with Allmon for about 30 years, so he doesn’t expect any problems working together in their new roles.

“We get a chief from the community and who lives in the community,” Brown said.

“With the addition of Roger, he will help Dave through his experience and commitment to bringing in best experiences and practices over all disciplines, from EMS to rescue to disaster planning and

management.”

The mayor said Allmon shares her visions of introducing a merit system so that promotions are based on performance; preparing the department for and making sure it receives accreditation; and training more firefighters as paramedics so that at least one paramedic is on duty for every shift at every fire station, able to respond to situations that require emergency medical services.

Allmon added that he wants to improve communication within the department and with other agencies.

For example, he said the 2008 flood revealed shortcomings in the department’s ability to communicate internally what was transpiring and share information with other agencies.

“We can’t have that,” Allmon said.

Johnson’s role will be to provide and care for situations threatening citizens and assets from natural and man-made disasters.

“It’s something I feel I am qualified for,” said Johnson, who said he finds emergency-management work gratifying.

He wants to create an all-hazards management review of Columbus and surrounding areas.

He said the storm that aborted the 2011 Hospice of South Central Indiana concert in Columbus, and the fatal stage collapse during a concert at the 2011 Indiana State Fair due to severe weather are examples of situations where advanced warning systems to notify crowds at special events would have been helpful.

Allmon will earn what the last internal fire chief made, $62,840, the mayor said. Thacker’s salary was $72,000.

Johnson will work part time, about 20 hours a week, and be paid a monthly retainer that will amount to about $20,000 throughout the course of a year, the mayor said.

Although Allmon’s and Johnson’s combined pay will exceed Thacker’s salary, total compensation will actually result in a savings of $32,000.

That’s because Allmon already has a pension, so the city won’t have to pay into one.

And, retired firefighters remain on the department’s health plan, so the city won’t incur an extra expense for that.

As a part-time city employee, Johnson doesn’t qualify for any benefits.

Allmon retired March 1, 2010, for pension reasons and to spend more time with his children and grandchildren. But he said his role as union president kept him involved, so he never truly stopped being a firefighter.

Messages left for Thacker were not returned.

Coming next

WHAT: David Allmon’s official approval as Columbus Fire Chief.

WHEN: 6 p.m. Sept. 18.

WHERE: At next Columbus City Council meeting, in Council chambers in City Hall, 123 Washington St.

WHY: The City Council must approve Allmon because a state law says that a fire chief must have worked five consecutive years with the department prior to the appointment. If not, special approval is required. Allmon worked 29 consecutive years with the Columbus Fire Department but retired two years ago.

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