Public Safety Voices | Fire Chief Erik Litzenberg

The city’s services and resources were overburdened by a relatively small number of people. We needed to come up with a better way to meet their needs.

“The most rewarding part of my career came very early on when I was a paramedic: Putting my hands on people we were called to assist, and making them better – or feel better – as a result of what I was doing. I believe that’s why we all get in it – to make a difference.

(Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

“And now, as chief, I find it incredibly rewarding to be able to identify problems in the community and find solutions that work. For example, last year we launched the Mobile Integrated Health Office (MIHO) in response to a disconnect in care in our city.

“We have a number of people who are not necessarily getting the care they need, and were disproportionately using up the city’s resources (ambulance, ER, etc.) as a result. We’re nearing 20,000 calls this year [2017] – we need to be able to answer them all.

“Having spent the better part of a decade as a paramedic, I saw firsthand that we didn’t always have the tools to help them – at least we didn’t have the right tools in the right places. Now, with the MIHO, we’re able to track people with more complicated and complex needs; we’re able to design a more personal plan to address the needs of those who are higher users of the city’s resources.

“It’s so nice to be able to provide people with the care they actually need, and it frees up our services and resources to help the larger community through our 911 system. We’re starting to collect really great data on how it’s helping. In fact, the data is overwhelming. We’re changing lives.”

Our Mobile Integrated Health Office is changing lives.

“We were regularly being called to help a single mother with a child (early teens) who has a seizure disorder. The mother has some behavioral issues as well – issues with substance abuse. She had been caring for her child alone for many, many years – even carrying him up and down the stairs twice daily. This was far beyond her capabilities, so there were slip issues, and a number of falls. Furthermore, the child was not always receiving his medications because she didn’t understand how to administer them.

“MIHO did a home assessment; the team immersed themselves in their lives and connected the dots for this family. She needed some physical help – railings on the stairs and a lift assist. The child started getting the medications he needed, and the MIHO team educated people at his school about his conditions and needs as well, enabling them to help, too. It was life-changing for this family to receive help from someone who understood the system.

“Another person who stands out in my mind is a guy who had engaged the city and county systems – 911, ER, and jail – over 200 times in one year. In our integrated care approach, we were able to get his needs met and, as a result, reduced that number to one time in six months.

“Not long ago, a man came walking up to me in a suit and tie. He told me that our program has cleaned him up to the point that he had a job interview that day. It was the same guy. He’s now living a normal, functional life.”

We all share a genuine interest in the citizens we serve and their well-being.

“We take a great deal of pride in our work, and we really do care about all the things we take an oath over – to protect our communities, show compassion and care for the people we serve, and to serve honorably. We share a genuine interest in the citizens and their well-being, and yes, we’re as approachable as it seems.”

Santa Fe, New Mexico Fire Chief Erik Litzenberg



Public Safety Voices: Fire Chief Tom Jenkins

The Millennial workforce presents new challenges. 

“Our primary challenge is how to deal with the youngest generation we employ: the Millennials. We’re used to hiring people who want to be career firefighters, and for the first time ever, our new hires are often not interested in a long-term career. So, how do we keep them motivated and retain them?

“We start by acknowledging that it’s not business as usual. This is just not the same group working here today; they’re not going to conform to what we believe are the best parts of the job. For example, it’s hard to get Millennials to work overtime – they enjoy their time off. We used to work 24 on, 48 off; now we work 48 on, 96 off.

“This generation is also focused on wanting to make a difference, to have an impact – to see and do different things. If things get stagnant or they get bored, then they’re unhappy and want to go elsewhere. So, to combat that, we created diversity in our assignments, e.g., running airport fire stations, special rescue and hazardous materials teams.

“At some point it begins to inch toward a crisis. We can’t compete with the private sector on pay. We offer a great pension, but they live in the now. They’re not thinking about the future.”

At best, fighting fires is only five percent of our job.

“The one thing people don’t respect enough is the wide scope of our business. Over 3,000 people die every year in a fire; it’s still a very real and tangible threat. But a lot of people think all we do is fight fire. At best, that’s five percent of our job.

“We’re the only 24/7 health care industry that still makes house calls. Car wreck, train wreck, chemical spill, chest pains, or a house on fire – we’re the first on the scene. We work to balance all the new and emerging things we do. It’s tough to advocate for so many different things, and be master of all.”

Fire Chief Tom Jenkins, Rogers, Arkansas, Fire Department

Police and Fire Chief Selection

The Assessment Services Department would like to bring your attention to a new assessment tool developed in partnership between ICMA and IPMA-HR for the purpose of selecting police and fire chiefs. Read on for more information.

Police and fire chiefs are two of the most visible members of a manager’s executive team. Selecting the right individuals for the job is critical to providing the leadership necessary to make your community a safer and better place to live. Hiring the wrong people can damage staff morale and public trust and negatively impact your government’s agenda and your career. Ensure a successful selection by using an advanced process designed to maximize a positive outcome.

Chief Selection Advantage: A Data-Driven Selection Process

Chief Selection Advantage is a research-based assessment tool that you help your jurisdiction choose the right candidate for your next police or fire chief. This authoritative and data-driven process was designed in partnership by the experts at the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR).

We don’t screen resumes. And we don’t make the selection for you. Instead, Chief Selection Advantage empowers managers, HR directors, and city council members with critical information needed to choose the most qualified candidate.

Using the ICMA/IPMA-HR Chief Selection Advantage will help your city or county:

  • Recruit your next police or fire chief by proving you with research-based assessment tools and a framework for the selection process
  • Identify the characteristics of a successful chief by pre-screening candidates against established core competencies
  • Determine whether candidates are capable of handling the unique issues facing your community.
  • Incorporate the buy-in of employees, elected officials, and citizens.
  • Streamline the selection process, saving you time and resources.
  • Allow your HR staff to successfully conduct chief recruitments in-house, giving you greater control over the process and keeping recruitment costs down.
  • Gain information to build an effective partnership between you and your new chief.

Don’t make a mistake in hiring your next police or fire chief. Visit ICMA for more information.