Doyle to step down as fire chief

Unpopular department changes among the reasons for resignation

Posted: Thursday, November 20, 2003

Capital City Fire and Rescue Chief Mike Doyle resigned Wednesday, saying in his letter of resignation he was "tired" and admitting that recent department organizational changes "have not been universally popular."

Doyle had been with Capital City for six years. He was unavailable for comment Wednesday night. His resignation will take effect at the end of business hours Friday, and Deputy Fire Chief Mike Fenster will act as interim chief.

Doyle and City Manager Rod Swope met Monday to discuss impending changes in the organization of the fire department.

"During the course of those conversations we both agreed that it was time for a change," Swope said. "Mike felt like he was tired and that he had put in a lot of effort over the course of six years and he was ready to turn over the reins."

"I've been quite involved with the department in dealing with various issues, and we've had numerous conversations up to this point," Swope said. "Looking back on those conversations, I think we had both realized this was probably something that needed to happen at some point in time. It wasn't a surprise."

Doyle's letter of resignation, as read by Swope Wednesday night, says: "I finished six years of service with the department. We are well underway with the departmental organization and I'm tired. In regards to the many changes we've implemented, as well as the results with the (Emergency Services Education and Consulting Group) study, I am aware that they have not been universally popular. The thing is, the changes are essential from both a risk-management and a fire safety point of view. Whether it was me or another chief, it was time for the changes."

The study was a lengthy analysis of the fire department and produced a series of four reports recommending changes, Swope said.

One of those changes, a reorganization plan that turns the volunteer chief positions at the department's four stations into volunteer captains, will be voted on Monday by the Juneau Assembly. The plan would add two division chiefs beneath the chief and deputy chief. One division chief would manage the career firefighters. The other division chief, a volunteer, would manage the volunteers.

The new division chiefs are scheduled to begin Jan. 1. The department hopes the reorganization will solve communication problems.

"Obviously, there have been problems identified with the department which caused the organizational change, which I recommended strongly and support," Swope said. "That change, plus a new chief who might have some new ideas and some new energy and some new enthusiasm could be a very effective opportunity for the department."

Swope said he will immediately begin a nationwide search for a new chief. He estimates the search will take three to five months.

"Those things take a long time," Swope said. "The department as well as the community deserve the best chief we can find, so it's going to take a pretty exhaustive search and I'm going to take my time to make sure we get the right person."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.



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