The way in which Herman Williams Jr. was appointed the city's new fire chief was extraordinary. No vacancy was declared upon the retirement of Peter O'Connor, no applicants were invited. Instead, the newly appointed fire board simply declared Mr. Williams the new chief. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke pronounced himself "pleased with the fire board's selection."
Mr. Williams cannot be blamed for this irregular process. The only thing he did -- with success -- was to campaign for the fire chief's job, saying his 26 years as a firefighter (including three as a battalion chief) and four years as head of the city's Department of Transportation qualified him for the job. However, we think the fire board would have been smarter had it at least attempted a routine candidate search.
It is not by accident that the new fire board looks like a trio of marionettes, controlled by the mayor. Mr. Schmoke has made it quite clear he wants the board abolished. In fact, the recent municipal Organizational Review Team proposed that the daily operations of the fire department be vested with the fire chief, making the board unnecessary. The panel also recommended a total overhaul of the fire department's organization and said the chief's position should be removed from civil service.