By Sue Moore
A move by the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority to seek applicants for the fire chief’s post now held by Tracy McMillan has angered those who say McMillan is capable in the job and should be retained.
But Bill Adams, a member of the authority board’s human resources committee as well as Vicksburg’s village president, indicated that McMillan is reluctant to take on increased administrative duties as recommended by a consultant’s report. And board Chairman Randy Smith said that McMillan’s decision to run for Schoolcraft Township supervisor could create a potential conflict of interest.
More than 40 people crowded into the authority’s meeting room, most to complain about the decision to post the job opening.
Two of the people speaking on Chief Tracy McMillan’s behalf were his son and daughter, who serve with the department. Several others decried the actions they see aimed at removing the chief from his job.
A paramedic spoke about the nurturing she received from Chief McMillan when she started at the age of 15. “He welcomed me, taught me the rules and how to perform to the best of my abilities. He is a dedicated public servant, always helping people in the community. He’s not ready to retire.”
McMillan did not comment on the matter.
Adams tried to set the record straight: “People take what’s going on and it gets amplified so the facts become unrecognizable. We want the fire department to be the best of the best. To help identify the best practices, we brought in a consultant to look at our entire operation. We met with the chief regarding the conclusions, which focused on the need for administrative duties as a big part of the chief’s job description. Tracy indicated he wanted to be out in the field and didn’t want the administrative duties the consultant was recommending.”
Jim Deming, also a member of the board’s human resources committee and a firefighter in Pavilion Township, told the audience, “We want the administrator chief to make decisions and not the board. We won’t have people in between. We are putting the administration back into the chief’s hands. This is not to take anything away from Chief McMillan. He is more than welcome to apply.”
The board then voted to post the job with a timeline of interviewing candidates in June and hiring by July.
“This doesn’t reflect on the chief’s performance,” Randy Smith, chair of the board said. He referred to McMillan’s filing for the township post. “It’s not clear whether you could be chief and also sit on this board if elected. The supervisor is the usual appointee from the township. That might weigh the voting rights too heavily on one particular governmental entity. We need to consult with our attorney to sort all of the ramifications of this out before we get to election day in November and all of a sudden need a new fire chief.”