One of the two out-of-state finalists for Boise Fire Chief opted out of the application process after a conversation with Mayor Lauren McLean and her Chief of Staff Courtney Washburn.
Last fall, the City of Boise held a town hall with its two finalists to lead the Boise Fire Department: Fire Chief Adrian Shepphard, from Richmond California and Phoenix Fire Department’s Assistant Chief Scott Walker. But, roughly two weeks later McLean announced neither of them got the job and she had reached out to Meridian Fire Chief Mark Niemeyer instead.
‘I am not the best candidate’
At the time, her release said the nationwide search and interview process with the two candidates showed her Niemeyer was “always the right person for the job” and Boiseans said loud and clear they preferred a local candidate.
An Oct. 27, 2020 email obtained by BoiseDev earlier this month between McLean and Walker shows he removed himself from consideration. City spokesman Seth Ogilvie told BoiseDev in November the decision to reach out to Niemeyer to hire him as Boise’s Fire Chief was made the next day.
“It was certainly an honor to be selected as one of the finalists for this position,” Walker wrote in his email to McLean. “After meeting with you and your Chief of Staff, Ms. Washburn on Wednesday, I have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on our conversations. Based on our conversations and your vision as you outlined to me, I have determined that I am not the best candidate to be the next Fire Chief of the City of Boise.”
Ogilvie declined to comment on Walker removing himself from consideration for the job.
“We do not wish to comment,” he said in an email. “Mayor McLean has publicly said why Chief Niemeyer was appointed several times, and she continues to believe he is the right person for the job.”
Walker told BoiseDev it “would not be appropriate” for him to comment on the matter. A call to the second candidate, Shephard, to see if he was offered the job or had a similar conversation about McLean’s vision for the department was not returned.
How did the city find Walker?
Boise conducted a nationwide search looking for a replacement after former Fire Chief Dennis Doan resigned in March. The city signed a $27,500 contract with California-based search firm Ralph Andersen & Associates in May, 2020 to find candidates. As part of this contract, the firm established a list of job requirements, built a list of stakeholders to vet candidates and recruit qualified candidates.
A brochure for the job obtained by BoiseDev in a public records request said an ideal candidate would be “an effective listener and communicator who speaks truthfully even when the message may not be well received,” experienced in collective bargaining, a strong leader willing to challenge the status quo and “politically astute, without being politically active.”
Job requirements included a bachelor’s degree in public administration, business administration or a related field and seven years minimum experience with a full-service fire department and a minimum of five years experience as a command officer.
Niemeyer did not meet the education requirements laid out by the search firm, was not interviewed through the process nor did he apply for the position. But, despite questions from some city council members about the process used to select him, they confirmed him unanimously. Niemeyer also got a vote of approval from the Boise Fire Fighters Local 149.