By Ed Runyan
Warren City Council members Helen Rucker and Cheryl Saffold came to last week’s civil service commission meeting ready to tackle the challenges of recruiting minorities, women and city residents to jobs in the fire and police departments.
The chairman of the committee, Assistant Chief Neil Heller of the Warren Fire Department, didn’t attend, but Rucker revealed that Mayor Doug Franklin has authorized $3,000 to help move the process forward.
Saffold showed the civil service commission a recruitment brochure produced by Canton officials as a step she hopes Warren will emulate.
Rucker suggested that one use for the $3,000 be to produce a similar brochure and to run recruitment notices in local newspapers “that minorities read,” including the Buckeye Review and Call and Post.
Because no Warren residents got jobs when the fire department added 15 firefighters through the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2011, Rucker said she’d like to see 15 points added to the score of Warren residents taking the test for firefighter.
There are financial reasons for having Warren residents working for the city. “They buy homes, shop in Warren stores,” Rucker said.
Jim Sanders, assistant law director, said he’d look into whether that would be legal.
Rucker said she’s talked to local military recruiters, and they’ve all said they have Warren natives returning home from war, so that might be a good place to recruit.
One soldier who served as a firefighter in the Army told Rucker he believes Warren’s requirements to be a firefighter are more extensive than in the military, so maybe the requirements need to be changed, Rucker said.
Atty. James Fredericka, a member of the commission, said he would like Rucker to invite the soldier to speak to the commission to learn more from him.
The Rev. Frank Hearns, another commission member, said he’d like something be done to make it easier for a woman to pass the physical-agility portion of the firefighter test, saying he believes the agility test has been used over the years to prevent women from becoming a firefighter.
Hearns said a female Youngstown firefighter told him it’s “unreal” that a woman should have to do a “man’s pushup.”
Fredericka said that because there has been a perception over the years that women were not welcome in the Warren Fire Department, the commission two years ago started having Cuyahoga County Community College administer the test.
“This is the first time we’ve had a complaint,” Fredericka said.
“We need to have some leniency. We need to broaden ourselves,” Rucker said. “We want to level the playing field and make it fair to everyone.”
Fredericka said he likes the idea of offering a class in Warren for people taking the fire test to show them what it entails.
He also believes the city should send firefighters and police officers into all of the schools in Warren to show children the benefits of a career in the fire service or in police work.