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West Allis leaders to discuss hiring director of public safety as city faces vacancies at police, fire chief

Feb. 22, 2013

In a week, West Allis will not have a police chief or a fire chief.

In a letter dated Wednesday, Fire Chief Steven Hook announced his plans to retire Feb. 28.

Over at the Police Department, Charles Padgett has been interim chief since the retirement of chief Michael Jungbluth at the end of 2012. The Police and Fire Commission thought it had the police chief job nailed down with the appointment of Rick Balistrieri last week. But he suddenly withdrew his acceptance after he didn't get unanimous approval by the commission. The Common Council was made aware of his withdrawal Tuesday morning.

Because the city will soon have no chiefs, the Police and Fire Commission will meet with the Common Council on whether to combine those positions into one director of public safety.

Some aldermen expressed the view that the Fire Department has too many chiefs, so the Common Council asked to discuss the possibility of a combined police and fire director, said Joseph Kempen, Police and Fire Commission president. At a combined meeting that could take place the week of March 4, commissioners and aldermen will discuss the pros and cons of a joint position and what it would look like.

Some other Wisconsin communities have public safety directors, Kempen said. But he is unaware of any that have full time fire departments as West Allis has, he said. Normally they have paid-on-call fire departments, he said.

At its meeting Thursday, the Police and Fire Commission appointed Deputy Chief of Operations Gary Streicher to serve as interim fire chief.

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