Police and Fire Commission interviews fire chief finalists - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Police and Fire Commission interviews fire chief finalists

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La Crosse, WI (WXOW) -

The La Crosse Fire Department is entering the final stages in its search for a new fire chief.

Current Chief Gregg Cleveland announced his retirement earlier this year after nearly 11 years on the job.

MORE: Cleveland Announces Retirement

Tuesday morning, The La Crosse Police and Fire Commission, along with Mayor Tim Kabat and the city's human resources department, sat in on the interviews of the two finalists.

The first candidate, Brian Lee, is a retired Deputy Fire Chief for the Washington D.C. Fire and EMS Department. Following his retirement in 2016, Lee now works as a public safety promotional and professional assessment consultant.

The second candidate, Leeland "Ken" Gilliam" currently works as Deputy Fire Chief for the St. Paul Fire Department and is the director of the fire and rescue training at Wisconsin Indianhead College.

"The two people we spoke to did a very good job in the interviews and I think we're going to be able to select an excellent fire chief," Doug Happel, a commission member, said. "I just don't know who it is yet."

Mayor Tim Kabat said he sat in on the interviews to help convey how critical the position is to furthering the city's neighborhood revitalization efforts.

"The role is not only the fire fighting piece, but the code enforcement and the medical calls and what that does to enhance our livability and our quality of life in La Crosse," Kabat said.

According to an article published in the Washington Times in 2009, he was serving as an Assistant Chief of Police and Standards and authorized an agreement with a Deputy Chief that allowed an employee to work as a fire chief out of state while remaining a D.C. employee.

The article goes on to say the agreement was made to keep the employee on the department's books until he turned 50 so he could collect his pension immediately upon his retirement rather than waiting until the age of 55. The following year, Lee resigned and was reassigned to a Deputy Chief position in 2011, later retiring in 2016, according to the paper.

News 19 asked Doug Happel Tuesday if the commission is aware of the allegations. Happel said it was addressed at Tuesday's meeting and said "all of those things can be further checked out in background checks."

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