Fire chief wants residency rules eased

July 26, 2011

Scott Erke has been promoted from deputy chief to assistant fire chief.

Erke steps into the position vacated by Michael Anton, who retired earlier this month. Since it's likely a second assistant chief position will open up in the next six months, Wauwatosa Fire Chief Rob Ugaste is doing some staff planning.

Tonight, he'll ask the Employee Relations Committee to consider removing the residency requirement for deputy chiefs, which are the third tier of leadership within the department.

A healthy fire department promotes from within, typically from the rank below, Ugaste said. If another assistant chief retires, that position will be filled by a deputy chief.

Taking into account a restructuring that would eliminate one deputy chief position, there should be one deputy chief vacancy to fill in the not too distant future.

Ugaste is looking to his captains to find the person who will fill that position. He's challenging staff to work hard and wants to be able to provide rewards in the form of promotions. The problem: of the entire staff - not counting the chief - only five live in the city.

"I don't really know the reason behind that, but I do know that it really shrinks my candidate pool," he said.

Ugaste said removing a rule that requires a deputy chief to live within three miles of the Wauwatosa border would help attract the best candidates for the job. He is not asking to lift the residency requirements for assistant chiefs or for himself.

Looking at other communities' fire departments, West Allis requires only the chief to live in the city and the North Shore residency rules apply to the chief and assistant chiefs. Ugaste isn't aware of neighboring communities that set limits for the third level of management.

In the Wauwatosa Police Department, only the police chief is required to live in the city - not the captains or other supervisors.

The restructuring includes transitioning deputy chiefs to shift commanders with an area of administrative specialization, such as emergency medical services or buildings and equipment.

"The need for this individual to available while off duty has been diminished," Ugaste wrote in a memo to the committee.


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