Hilbert changes fire chief selection process

By Ed Byrne * The Brillion News

HILBERT – The Hilbert Village Board will still have the final say on who is appointed as chief of its fire department, but the volunteer firefighters will no longer vote to recommend who they want appointed as chief.

On Tuesday evening, the village board voted 5-1 to enact an ordinance amending the appointment process.

The village board’s Health Committee will now recommend a person for appointment as fire chief and the full village board will make the decision.

And, instead of serving a one-year calendar term, the chief will serve an open-ended term until removed by the village board – or due to death, resignation, change of residence to one outside the fire district or by operation of law.

The chief will appoint the first and second assistant chiefs, captains and the fire department’s training officer.

The ordinance change came after a contentious two-month disagreement.

In December, the firefighters voted to recommend that the village board replace incumbent Chief Michael Loose with Richard (Rick) Thiel, who was a member of the village board at the time.

At two meetings of the village board, one in December and the other in January, former Village President Ken Stenklyft made a motion to appoint Thiel as fire chief, but no other trustee seconded the motion, killing it.

Neither Stenklyft nor Thiel filed papers to seek re-election in April, and both resigned from office following January’s village board meeting.

Before the board voted on the ordinance amendment on Tuesday, a letter to the village board, written by Rick Thiel, was read by his brother Todd Thiel because Rick Thiel was unable to attend the meeting.

It was accompanied by a petition, signed by more than 200 residents of the fire district, approving of Thiel as chief.

Rick Thiel’s letter criticized the board for not acting favorably on the recommendation of the volunteer firefighters …

To read the full story, please purchase the Feb. 12, 2015 print edition of The Brillion News, available on newsstands now. Note. The complete text of Rick Thiel’s letter to the Hilbert Village Board will be published in the Feb. 19 print edition of The Brillion News.

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