By J. PATRICK PEPPER
DEARBORN — Almost two months after the retirement of Fire Chief Nazih Hazime, Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said he is getting closer to finding a successor.
O’Reilly said Thursday he has assembled an interview team to assist him in the selection process and should begin seeing candidates next week. While declining to name the members of the interview team, he did say it shouldn’t take “too long” to make a selection once interviews start.
“The only thing that could hold us up is if it’s so close between two candidates that we have to call back for second interviews, but otherwise things should move pretty quickly,” O’Reilly said.
The city has been without a top firefighter since the end of July, when Hazime retired to central Arizona. He now is administering a smaller department.
Deputy Chief Dean Creech has served as Dearborn’s interim chief in Hazime’s absence.
And with an applicant pool that only includes internal candidates from the Fire Department, Creech is a presumable front-runner for the position. Since being promoted to his current rank in 2007, Creech already has been responsible for several of the department’s administrative functions, such as preparing the budget and monitoring building maintenance.
O’Reilly said he hasn’t selected the new chief yet because after receiving applications he realized that he didn’t know some of the candidates very well and he wanted to familiarize himself with them first.
In choosing to go with a department-only search, O’Reilly takes a different tack than when he selected a new police chief last year. The difference, he said, is that he is more satisfied with the current state of the Fire Department than he was when with the Police Department when he appointed Ronald Haddad to the top post in October 2008.
“With the Police Department, the difference was that I really felt I wanted to have an outside look,” O’Reilly said. “There had been a lot of issues that had been raised that caused me to think I wanted a fresh set of eyes.
“With the Fire Department, I think it’s very different.”
To him, the option of going with an internal candidate is ideal, he said.
“The first choice for me always would be to promote from within, he said, “and in this case I have every reason to believe that we’ll find someone out of the existing employees.”