GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Two candidates have emerged as finalists for the job of Grand Rapids Fire Chief.

Brad Brown is currently a deputy chief with the Grand Rapids Fire Department. A 20-year veteran of the GRFD, Brown oversees several aspects if the department, including its $36 million budget.

The other candidate is Eloy Vega. Now fire chief in Port Neches, Texas, Vega spent several years in leadership positions with the Laredo, Texas, fire department. Laredo FD is similar in size to GRFD.

Courtesy images of Brad Brown (left) and Eloy Vega (right), the two finalists to be Grand Rapids' next fire chief.
Courtesy images of Brad Brown (left) and Eloy Vega (right), the two finalists to be Grand Rapids’ next fire chief.

The ability to plan for the future is one of the qualities City Manager Mark Washington is looking for in the new chief.

The city commission is expected to vote Tuesday on purchasing land on Kalamazoo, between 36th and 44th streets for a future firehouse to expand fire and rescue services in the heavily populated 3rd Ward.

The city is still considering ideas on when the station can be built and how it will be paid for.

“We have not built a fire station in our community since 1986,” said Grand Rapid City Manager Mark Washington. “And with the growth of Grand Rapids, there’s a need to expand fire services throughout the city.”

The public will get a chance to vet the candidates at a public forum set for next Wednesday.
The forum will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the City Commission Chambers on the 9th floor of City Hall.

The public will get a chance to ask question of both Brown and Vega.

The forum will also be shown on  Comcast Channel 26 and streamed live on the City’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

“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,” said Washington.

The rank and file are also involved in the process.

“Were not fully tied to one candidate. We want to fully vet them,” said Grand Rapids Firefighters Local 366 President Joe Dubay.

Dubay said the new chief will have some big shoes to fill.

John Lehman, who spent most of his career in Aurora, Illinois, was named Grand Rapids Fire Chief in 2016.

In that short time, he’s been credited with expanding GRFD’s firefighting and rescue capabilities and helping the department establish the highest rating for service and readiness by the insure industry. And he’s been popular with troops.

“Couldn’t ask for better leadership in our department. We’re growing, and the citizens are well served,” said Dubay. The Union leaders said City Manager Mark Washington has included the rank and file in the process.

“Along with the community, with the department input, that gives him well rounded ideas as to who will be the best leader for this department,” said Dubay.

Washington hopes to have a decision in the next few weeks.