The departure of yet another city leader is imminent, but Grandview Heights already has begun its search for a new fire chief.
Fire Chief Steve Shaner has set his retirement for the third week of February.
“It’s a bittersweet moment,” Mayor Greta Kearns said. “I’m excited for him that he has the ability to step away, enjoy retirement and move on to the next chapter of his life, but we’re sorry to see him go. It’s a loss for the community.
“He’s been a fantastic chief,” Kearns said. “I’ve gotten to know him pretty well over the last six years I’ve been on City Council. Chief Shaner is uniformly respected and he’s both a team player and a great leader.
“On top of all that, he’s a kind and nice person.”
Shaner was eligible to retire in 2019 under the state retirement system, but agreed to stay on through the transition to a new mayor so that person could choose the new fire chief.
He has served as fire chief since 2009.
Shaner’s retirement follows those of Mayor Ray DeGraw, director of administration/economic development Patrik Bowman and administrative secretary/clerk of council Debbie Nicodemus, all of whom stepped down at the end of 2019.
The city’s search for Shaner’s replacement will be led by the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association, Kearns said.
“They’ve been for the last couple weeks talking with fire department staff and with us about the qualities we’ll be wanting in the new fire chief,” she said.
The association will evaluate potential candidates for the chief’s position, Kearns said, but ultimately it will be her decision to appoint the new chief with council’s confirmation.
Kearns said she expects to name the new fire chief by the end of April.
The city posted the position on the association’s website Jan. 17 and set a Feb. 18 deadline for candidates to apply.
“We’re expecting this position to attract a lot of interest,” Kearns said, especially with the opportunity the new chief will have to help shape the construction of a new fire station and oversee the move into the new facility.
The city’s Civic Spaces and Places plan adopted last year recommends relocating the city’s municipal and safety complex to the southeast corner of Goodale Boulevard and Grandview Avenue, a portion of which was vacated when the city opened a new public-works facility in November at 1241 McKinley Ave.
The city will look for a candidate who will be able to lead the fire division through the transition to a new station and communicate the facility needs of the department, Kearns said.
The new chief also will need to have strong team-building and communication skills and be adept at interacting with the community, she said.
“Our fire department has a cherished place in our community and the fire chief is a prominent position,” Kearns said.
An interim fire chief will be named to fill the post temporarily after Shaner retires, but that appointment is still to be determined, she said.
Shaner has served as the city’s information technology person as well as fire chief.
“It’s another example of his dedication to the community that he was willing to do the IT job and add that to his fire-chief duties,” Kearns said.
The IT responsibilities have greatly increased as technology itself and its role in city operations have expanded, she said.
“It’s a role that requires its own independent position,” Kearns said.
Kearns has proposed creating a full-time information technology director position; City Council was expected to hold a vote on approving legislation to authorize the new position during its Jan. 21 meeting.
Kearns has appointed Brian Lee, a retired Columbus police officer, to serve as an information technology consultant for the city on an interim basis as the plans for the new full-time permanent position are determined.
“He retired from Columbus after sustaining a back injury in the line of duty, and in Columbus, he worked both on the street and with their 911 operations,” Kearns said. “He’s previously worked with us as a consultant, particularly with our 911 system, so he has some knowledge of the system we have in place.”
Shaner has served with the Grandview fire department since 1988 and became chief in August 2009.
He indicated his intention to retire in June 2019, but agreed to stay on through the transition to a new mayor. Council approved rehiring him as chief July 1.
“I’ve enjoyed working in the fire service,” he said in July. “It’s probably one of the few jobs out there that is different each day and I’ve enjoyed coming to work every day. It’s been a very fulfilling career.”
Shaner said the city’s improved financial condition over the last decade have allowed the fire department to upgrade its equipment and training.
During his tenure, about half of the department’s fire equipment has been replaced and about half of the firefighters now on staff have been hired, he said.
Shaner could not be reached for comment for this story.