Kevin Wise, a battalion chief with the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District, has been named Ceres’ new fire chief.
He replaces Bryan Nicholes who retired in August 2017.
Wise was appointed by City Manager Toby Wells, a decision that was ratified on Monday in a 3-2 vote of the Ceres City Council.
A total of 10 applicants sought the position after it was posted in October. Six qualified candidates were invited to participate in the formal selection process and five participated. The five candidates were interviewed by both a technical and citizen panel in a full day and a selection panel with the city manager, mayor and Councilman Mike Kline. Candidates also met with the president of the Ceres Professional Firefighters Local 3636 and informally with several department heads during the day.
“Mr. Wise is a highly qualified professional with diverse experience and background,” wrote Wells in a staff report. “He possesses the technical and managerial skills necessary to provide a high level of leadership and direction to the Department. He is uniquely positioned to hit the ground running and we look forward to this fine addition to the management team.”
Wise has been with Stanislaus Consolidated since July 2012 and was formerly employed with the Oakdale and Woodland Avenue fire departments. He earned his associate degree in Fire Science from Modesto Junior College in 2004 and his bachelor’s degree in Fire Administration from Cogswell Polytechnical College in San Jose. He also attended the National Fire Academy’s executive fire officer program from 2014 to 2018.
In 2016 Wise made local news when he received a bone marrow transplant and beat cancer for a second time. He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2011 which he beat through leukemia. In September 2015 doctors learned that he had acute myeloid leukemia. After additional rounds of chemotherapy he was given a bone marrow transplant and is in remission.
When he starts on Jan. 28 he will be making a salary of $10,506 per month. He will be up for a 1.5 percent raise on July 1 and one on July 1, 2020.
Eyebrows were raised when Councilman Channce Condit suggested that “leaders” of Ceres be asked if they would consider living in Ceres during their interview process. Wells replied that the question would be crossing the line. Condit insisted the question could be asked but Wells said state law requires employers not to ask questions that could be considered discriminatory.
“It is my belief that we should want our leaders to live within our city,” said Condit. “I think it benefits our city as a whole. I think it’s the least we can ask of someone who’s making a great salary of $10,000, $12,000, $13,000 a month to live within our city limits. This is not a slight to Mr. Wise; I think he has a great resume and I think he’s a good man … I think he’s going to make a great chief but I do think out of principle that that question of whether or not candidates would consider living in our city should be asked.”
Wise later told the Courier he lives in west Modesto, only minutes from Ceres.
Wells, who resides in Turlock, suggested if the council wanted to explore the matter further they should discuss it at a future meeting. Vice Mayor Linda Ryno agreed but Councilman Bret Durossette suggested it was a “slippery slope.” He said the school district cannot ask that question but he suggested exploring incentives for those managers who do relocate to Ceres.
Condit clarified he wasn’t mandating that future managers live in Ceres but just ask if they would consider relocating.
“It benefits our entire city, it benefits our local economy and frankly it gives our candidates skin in the game if they live here in the city,” said Condit, who insisted it be taken up at the next meeting and not at the goal setting meeting next month. He didn’t explain the urgency in looking into the matter.
When the ratification came up for a vote, both Condit and Ryno voted against the majority of Durossette, Mayor Chris Vierra and Councilman Mike Kline.