City manager answers questions about selection process for Wichita fire chief


WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) –  Wichita has been without a permanent fire chief for months.

However, yesterday, city officials promoted Interim Fire Chief Tammy Snow to that post.

Now, there are questions about how much community involvement and input went into that selection.

Last week, the Wichita Firefighters Union President said he wasn’t happy about the selection process and wanted the union to be more involved.

The union wondered why it wasn’t similar to the forums that were held as part of the selection process for the city’s latest police chief, Gordon Ramsay, back in 2015.

City Manager Robert Layton is responsible for making the ultimate decision on who will lead a department here in Wichita. Layton says the selection process for a new fire chief took about three months.

He says it was a nationwide search, looking at candidates from here in Kansas, to as far away as California. Every step of the way, Layton says, he was engaging with a variety of community members.

This included a group of stakeholders that were citizens and business representatives, department directors and others.

“Mayor and council spent a little time with the candidates, as well as, representatives of the fire union and I received feedback from all of those folks and made my decision,” said Layton.

So KSN asked why did this process not mirror the process used for selecting a police chief two years ago.

“The police chief was different because we had gone through a year-long assessment of the department and its operations, the work was performed by Wichita State, one of the things they pointed out was a lot of concern about public input into the process,” said Layton.  “I thought it was really important that when we got down to final candidates, we could address the issues that were expressed during that WSU department assessment,” added Layton.

Layton says he didn’t feel the fire chief search needed the same level of community involvement. The reason being, Layton says, is that the fire department tends to rank in the 90-percent approval range when they conduct yearly surveys with the community.

Moving forward, he believes the selection of Chief Snow for the fire department’s top spot will end up being the right choice.

“I think so, I think a year from now when we are talking about Tammy’s performance, people will be really pleased,” said Layton.

KSN did speak briefly with one union official on the phone today.

He tells us that this is a new day for the Wichita Fire Department and that they are excited to see what Chief Snow will bring to the table as the new leader of the department.

Fire Chief Snow is now in charge of a multi-million dollar operation.

There’s a total of 453 positions in the fire department, 268 are firefighter positions.

The staffing numbers will stay the same through 2018.

The budget for next year is more than 46-million dollars.

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