Oregon council approves O’Brien as new fire chief

Kelly J. Kaczala

        Oregon City Council on Monday unanimously approved Mayor Mike Seferian’s appointment of Clayton O’Brien to be the new fire chief, effective Nov. 28.
        He replaces Fire Chief Denny Hartman, who announced he would be retiring, effective Dec. 2.                                         
        O’Brien was fire chief in Napoleon, Ohio. Oregon recently appointed Napoleon’s former city manager, Joel Mazur, to be the new city administrator. Mazur fills the position of Mike Beazley, who announced earlier this year he would be retiring.
        O’Brien’s annual salary will be $116,000, said Seferian.
        “This is something that, especially Mr. Beazley and I, and Joel Mazur, virtually spent countless hours with all of the parties involved to make this appointment a welcoming one,” said Seferian. “Not only welcoming to the chief, but to each of the departments. We know we’ve suffered some uneasiness in our fire department. It’s time we take steps to pull together. We believe we have a good fire department, and if we go in the same direction, with everybody on the same page, we can really accomplish some really nice things. It took a lot of time. Sometimes people didn’t know why we took certain steps, but it’s a changing world out there.”
        He said it is not easy to find people who are willing to apply.
        “It is hard to find quality individuals, people who are willing to come. It is a really serious step for people to take an at-will position, especially when fire departments are really in uncharted waters right now, especially departments that are not full-time departments.”
Long search
        It took nearly a year-and-a-half looking at possible candidates, he added.
        “Chief Hartman made it apparent to us a couple of years ago that he would be retiring within the next two years. At that time, Mr. Beazley and I started a search because we knew this wasn’t something that would happen overnight. With all the things we had to deal with - a paid on-call fire department mixed with some part-time scheduled people and some full-time employees – we knew we really were in uncharted waters. There are municipalities going to systems like this. But everyone is looking at each other to see how their systems are working. We knew we had to do something and get our fire department going in the same direction,” said Seferian.
        He said he was excited after he first spoke with O’Brien.
        “When we spoke with Clayton, it was a new experience for us. We just felt very enthusiastically excited,” said Seferian. “Councilwoman Kathleen Pollauf, who is chairman of the Safety Committee, met with him, too. She said she had the same feeling I did about him. At the midnight hour, I believe everyone is on board. If someone is not, I’d like to hear from them. So we are very excited after the interviews. Council members have talked to Clayton, and we’re really looking forward to the future. We’ll have a new fire station, a new chief, a new direction, and a new excitement. We’re looking for really good things.”
Both sides
        Councilman Paul Drake III said he spoke with members of the fire department about the appointment, as there have been concerns about transitioning to a full-time department.
        “I’ve been on council since December,” said Drake. “This has been the biggest issue I’ve had to deal with. I spoke with both sides - the part-time and full-time. In the last 24-hours, I’ve been on the phone a lot. The mayor’s right. I think we had issues when I first came in. I tried bringing both sides together.  They did assure me that they were good with the mayor’s appointment. Mike and I may not always get along, but I think he’s like me – he’s good at judging people. So I take his word on it.”
        O’Brien, who was at the meeting, said he was “honored and privileged to have this opportunity to be the next fire chief of Oregon.”
        “The only thing you can ever do positively as one is by having cohesiveness and being motivated,’ he added. “That makes me excited about being a part of Oregon. I’ve heard many great things about the staff at the fire department. I look forward to the future.”


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