Eight months after Dan Machotka began leading the Verona Fire Department, the city has provided him some temporary help with management.
Machotka became the city’s interim fire chief Jan. 2, upon Joe Giver’s retirement. Machotka’s appointment was made permanent May 11, but he’s been in charge since Giver’s last day in the office, Sept. 27. During that time, the city went through two separate searches for a permanent chief.
On Tuesday, May 26, the Common Council voted unanimously to spend up to $12,000 on a Neenah-based RW Management consultant to provide administrative support for the chief, who has also been filling his former role leading the department’s maintenance.
The consultant, Jeffrey Roemer, would be available 18-24 hours per week as needed for up to three months to assist with creating policies and any other issues. The assistance could be either on or off site, depending on Machotka’s needs.
City administrator Adam Sayre explained to the council that not only does the fire department have particular issues that are beyond his or human resources manager Mitchell Weckerly’s experience, it’s difficult to hire first responders during the COVID-19 crisis.
“If we can get him that help, at least in the interim, until we get through this COVID issue here, we could free up the hiring processes to bridge that cap so we don’t burn Dan out,” he said. “Trying to get him some help and trying to get him some administrative support in the interim.”
Another aspect of the role could be mentoring for someone who knows the department well, but has not served as a chief before.
The proposal and work plan in the council’s packet lists 13 specified duties, including holding regular meetings, planning administrative and communications structure, delivering reports, managing discipline procedures and performance standards, assisting with legal compliance, training and staying current on COVID-19 issues.
Roemer’s 35-year public safety career encompasses being fire chief of the City of Menasha and public safety director (police, fire and EMS) for the Village of Allouez, and he assisted in similar transitions in Johnson Creek and Germantown, as well as acting as interim fire chief for Green Bay for four years.
Mayor Luke Diaz encouraged alders to vote in favor, alluding to years of difficulties multiple chiefs have had with handling personnel. Combo departments like Verona’s – making extensive use of both full-time and volunteer positions – are generally considered the most difficult to manage, and Verona’s department also unionized over the past decade. That’s something not all chiefs are experienced with, he said.
“Just with some of the situations we’ve had at the fire department, any support we can offer the chief so he can be successful would be helpful and good because management isn’t always easy,” Diaz said.