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Fire chief candidates meet with public

BY ALISON CRISSMAN | JULY 12, 2013 5:00 AM

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Candidates for Iowa City fire chief met with the public Thursday during an event held at the Senior Center as part of an ongoing interview process.

The candidates answered individual questions in a style that allowed attendees to meet with them on a one-on-one basis in a speed-dating style. Those vying for the position of fire chief are John Grier, Greg Main, Eric Nurnberg, Brian Platz, and John Schilling. 

After Fire Chief Andy Rocca retired in May, the Iowa City Fire Department has searched for his replacement. Rocca served as fire chief beginning in 1996 and spent nearly 35 years with the department.

Grier, Nurnberg, and Platz are currently with the Fire Department, while Main and Schilling lead the Evansville, Ind., and Cedar Falls Fire Departments, respectively.

Here’s a closer look at the candidates:

John Grier

Grier has worked with the Fire Department since August 1992.  In 2006, he was promoted to the rank of battalion chief, and he has worked as fire marshal in Iowa City since March 2007.

Citing the strong strategic plan that the department has in place, Grier said that as fire chief, it would be important to continue with those goals and objectives for each of the divisions of the department.
As fire marshal, Grier has had experience working with the University of Iowa, as well.

“It’s kind of a good family relationship where we help them, and they help us, and I don’t see any of that changing,” he said.

Greg Main

Main has served with the Evansville Fire Department since January 1986.  He has been the district chief of that department since February 1998.

As one of two candidates not residing in Iowa City, Main said the wealth of diversity, culture, recreation, and entertainment opportunities as the reasons he and his family are attracted to the Iowa City area.

One idea that Main stressed for the department was improving customer service. He said the department could develop an after-fire program in which firefighters would bring Dumpsters to residences affected by fires to help with the cleanup.

“I’d like to see the customer-service bar raised a little bit more,” he said.  “… I think as a fire service, we need to be better at trying to help people after the fire.”

Eric Nurnberg

Since 2001, Nurnberg has served in the Iowa City Fire Department.  He was promoted to his current rank of captain in May 2010.

Nurnberg said that while drastic changes are not needed right away, thanks to the department’s already solid foundation, two important initiatives for him would include establishing continuity with leadership and succession planning.

He also mentioned the importance of the university to the department.

“… I certainly would plan to build a close relationship and maintain open and frequent communication,” he said. “I would definitely be dedicated to forming a strong partnership with the university.”

Brian Platz

Platz has worked with the Iowa City Fire Department since 1993, and he has served as battalion chief since 2010.

Citing several strengths of the department, Platz said one of strong points is its striving for continual improvement.

“… We’re constantly looking at what we do and how we can improve our operations,” he said. 

“We’ve got a great labor-management relationship … and folks on both sides of the table come together very open-minded, very dedicated, very willing to roll up their sleeves and work together.”

One challenge that Platz pointed to as a common issue of fire departments across the nation is the recruitment of minorities and women.

John Schilling

Schillling has held the position of chief of the Cedar Falls Fire Department since 2009, after previously serving as deputy chief of the Ankeny Fire Department from 1998 to 2009.

While working in Cedar Falls, Schilling gained experience collaborating with the University of Northern Iowa, and he hopes to continue a similar relationship with the UI.

“It will be important to make sure we can meet the needs of the university in a timely manner,” he said.


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