The new chief has been a city employee since 1979.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
EAST PALESTINE -- Although he is well acquainted with the city, Brett Todd said he has a lot to learn before becoming fire chief.
City Manager Gary Clark announced Monday that Todd, 44 of Negley, will become chief when Merle Stewart retires in October.
Todd has been a firefighter with the neighboring Negley Volunteer Fire Department 23 years and an EMT for 18 years. He will earn $19.90 an hour as East Palestine chief. He was Negley chief from 1987 to 1990 and is trained as a fire inspector.
Clark said six men were interested in becoming chief and that so many firefighters of such high caliber were qualified to apply is a big plus for the city and bodes well for the future of the department.
Clark said he wanted to name Stewart's successor as soon as possible to give the new chief time to work with Stewart.
The search began in January and concluded with interviews two weeks ago.
'In my blood'
Todd said he applied for the position because "I've been a firefighter for 23 years -- firefighting is in my blood."
He said Clark's decision to fill the post early was a good one.
"It will take some time to get to know everyone and to discover the department's strengths and weaknesses," Todd said. "I'm sure I will find more strengths than weaknesses."
Todd said he will spend time with Stewart and also with city finance director Connie Robinson. He said dealing with the department's budget is the area where he will have the most to learn before taking on the fire department's only full-time post.
City regulations require that applicants for chief must have completed the 240-hour firefighters course and have a minimum of three years of firefighting experience.
The candidates were ranked based on the results of interviews and psychological tests, background checks, a polygraph test and a physical, Clark said. Members of the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association conducted the interviews.
Also vying for the post were veteran city firefighters James Akenhead, Richard McElroy, Rich Pillsbury, Dennis Stock and John Trochek.
Todd has been a full-time dispatcher for East Palestine police and fire services since 1986 after starting the position part time in 1979.
He holds a bachelor's degree in engineering from Youngstown State University.
He lives in Negley with his 11-year-old daughter, Brianne.