GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Members of the public will have the opportunity Wednesday to meet the two candidates to be Grand Rapids’ next fire chief and ask them questions.
The forum is scheduled to run 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the commission chambers at City Hall on Monroe Avenue downtown. It will also be available on Comcast Channel 26 or the city’s Facebook or YouTube channels. Questions can be asked in person, on the Facebook Live chat or sent in ahead of time via the city’s website.
The candidates are Brad Brown, currently a deputy chief with the Grand Rapids Fire Department. A 20-year veteran of the department, Brown now several aspects, including its $36 million budget. He told News 8 Wednesday that he has had schooling in how to run a lean department and has a knack for spotting waste and inefficiencies so GRFD can make the most out of its money.
“I’ve been placed into a lot of different roles here,” Brown added. “Additionally, I’ve traveled the country as a peer assessor for the Center for Public Safety Excellence. I’ve evaluated over a dozen departments, some as big as Miami-Dade, Florida, and you get to really learn everything about that organization and ensure they’re aligning with the best practices in the fire service. And additionally, I do fly around the county a little bit and consult as a strategic planner. So I love to go into other communities and guide and coach them on setting goals and achieving measurable outcomes.”
The other candidate is Eloy Vega. Now fire chief in Port Neches, Texas, near Houston, Vega spent several years in leadership positions with the Laredo, Texas, fire department.
“What I bring to the table is a strong background in the fire service and public safety from different perspectives and different areas in the state of Texas. I bring experience from a large department, specifically the city of Laredo, which is a department and city similar in size to the city of Grand Rapids,” Vega said. “I was in leadership positions there. Not only leadership positions, but what I’m most proud of is the positions I was in to serve the community, specifically as a firefighter and a paramedic. As I promoted through the ranks, I was able to be head of different divisions, be the fire district chief of different divisions of the department, where I learned the different aspects of a larger organization.”
He said what he learned in Laredo allowed him to build a successful team in Port Neches.
After the forum, the city will open a survey to get public feedback, taking comment online and via phone through 311. That survey will close at 5 p.m. Friday. City Manager Mark Washington hopes to make a decision within weeks of the survey closing.
“I’m hoping the public will come out and show their interest and concern in these two candidates who really are going to help determine the trajectory of public safety in our city for the next few years,” Washington told News 8 last week.
Chief John Lehman, who has held the role since 2016, is expected to retire this spring.