Bisbee named interim fire chief

City still recruiting for position

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TEMPORARY LEADERSHIP Mark Bisbee, who served as Watsonville fire chief for nine years, was appointed interim fire chief for Gilroy. File photo: Tarmo Hannula

Gilroy appointed its second interim fire chief Jan. 6 as it attempts to recruit for a permanent position.

Former Watsonville fire chief Mark Bisbee will take over the interim role from Jeff Clet, who was named interim fire chief in January 2019 after the retirement of Alan Anderson in December 2018. Clet’s appointment ended because he was limited to working 960 hours per fiscal year as a CALPERS beneficiary.

Bisbee, who is now retired, is a 35-year veteran of the fire service, and served as fire chief for Watsonville for more than nine years prior to his departure in 2014. He holds a bachelor’s degree from San Jose State University and is a certified chief officer and master instructor.

“Personnel at the Gilroy Fire Department are very motivated, they are enthusiastic, and they are very dedicated,” Bisbee said. “I feel like I’ve been handed a gift to work with them.”

He will be paid a salary of $99.12 per hour, or $3,964.62 for a full workweek, according to city staff. Like Clet, his appointment is limited to a 960-hour total.

City officials are hoping to hire a permanent chief by May, according to human resources director LeeAnn McPhillips.

A job description by Peckham and McKenney, the recruitment firm hired by the city for the search, states that the annual salary range for the fire chief position is $153,516 to $206,160, with a 3 percent increase approved for July 1, 2020.

City officials have previously pointed to the county’s expensive home prices as a deterrent for candidates interested in coming to Gilroy. Santa Clara County’s average median home price is estimated at more than $1.1 million.

In October, the Gilroy City Council approved a housing loan program as a recruiting tool for vacant top administrator positions. The program, among other things, caps the loan at 80 percent of the value of a home.

McPhillips said the use of interim staffing is common across the state.

“This is not an uncommon phenomenon being faced by public agencies across the state of California,” she said. “There are department head and city manager positions vacant in many agencies, and my counterparts in those agencies are struggling to get positions filled and identify applicants that are well-qualified for these positions.”

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Roland Velasco selected Councilmember Cat Tucker as mayor pro tempore for 2020, a position that rotates annually. Councilmember Marie Blankley served in the role the previous year.

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