Boise mayor names non-finalist as next fire chief

Despite two finalists being interviewed in a public forum, Boise Mayor Lauren McLean named Meridian Chief Mark Niemeyer to the top position at the Boise Fire Department

Hayley Harding
The Idaho Statesman

Mayor Lauren McLean has chosen a new fire chief — but her choice wasn't a previously named finalist or even someone who initially applied for the job.

McLean announced in a news release Monday that she named Mark Niemeyer, Meridian fire chief, to the role. The release did not mention Adrian Sheppard or Scott Walker, the city's previously named finalists, but it did say that "after an extensive nationwide search to find the best candidate for Boise, it became clear that Boise's best candidate is right here in the valley."

Niemeyer will replace Dennis Doan, who left the city in March. It remains unclear what happened, but McLean put Doan on paid leave over an undisclosed "personnel issue," which Doan said was a political move after he supported former Mayor David Bieter during the December mayoral runoff election.

The Boise City Council held a special meeting during which it had an executive session on Doan, but he sent a letter to the council formally resigning before they could make a final decision. Deputy Chief Romeo Gervais served as interim chief after Doan's departure.

According to the release, Niemeyer worked for 10 years with Ada County Paramedics before joining the Meridian Fire Department as a deputy chief. He is also Meridian's emergency operations manager.

"We have the utmost respect for his leadership within the valley," the mayor said in the release. "His knowledge of COVID-19, emergency response, and the fire department will be irreplaceable in the months and years to come. His commitment to accountability, transparency, community engagement and equity, fit what every resident of Boise desires from their Fire Department. We heard you, and Chief Niemeyer is what the community wants."

The public didn't actually get a chance to communicate with Niemeyer in the way it did with the previously named finalists. Sheppard, fire chief in Richmond, California, and Walker, assistant chief in Phoenix, were both interviewed in a public forum two weeks ago.

People were able to submit questions, which were then asked of the candidates by Seth Ogilvie, the mayor's spokesperson. Niemeyer was not part of that forum or even known to the public as a candidate.

Asked why Boise chose Niemeyer over the named finalists, Ogilvie said that Niemeyer was "the best candidate for Boise." Ogilvie later said that Niemeyer did not initially apply for the job and wasn't part of the recruitment process.

"However, throughout this process, the mayor's office heard from the public what it wanted in its fire chief," he said in an email. "It became clear that what they wanted was a candidate like Chief Niemeyer. At that point, the office reached out to him."

Niemeyer said in the release that leading the Boise Fire Department was something he has spent his entire career preparing for.

"I will be focused on building strong relationships throughout the city as well as incorporating data and technology, along with the thoughts and ideas of the men and women at the Boise Fire Department, to tackle public safety issues," he said.

McLean's choice will need to be confirmed by the Boise City Council. The next scheduled meeting of the City Council is Tuesday, Nov. 10. Pending confirmation, Niemeyer will begin Nov. 30.


(c)2020 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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