Fire District 1 welcomes four fire chief candidate finalists during reception

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The four candidates, from left to right: Rich Brown, Kenneth McCarthy, Marion Blackwell and Bruce Stedman address the group.

Fire District 1 held its reception for four fire chief finalist candidates on Tuesday night. The selected chief will go on to head the new South Snohomish County Fire and Rescue Regional Fire Authority (RFA) approved by Fire District 1 and City of Lynnwood voters in the Aug. 1 election.

The RFA officially forms on Oct. 1, and will combine Fire District 1 with the Lynnwood Fire Department. Cities contracted with FD1, including Mountlake Terrace, will have their contracts automatically transfer to the RFA.

During the reception, community members were able to get to know the four candidates and they were given an opportunity to introduce themselves.

The interview process continues this week.

Below are highlights from the four candidates in alphabetical order by last name:

Candidate Marion Blackwell speaks to a community member.

Marion Blackwell has years of fire chief experience. He has been serving in the position in Spartanburg, South Carolina since 2010. Before that, he has also been a fire chief for a department in Oklahoma and two in Idaho.

He has a bachelor’s degree in Fire Administration and Fire Prevention, a master’s degree in Executive Fire Service Leadership and a PhD in Fire & Emergency Management Administration. He also graduated from the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer program.

He said he wants to be the chief because of the opportunity to create a new organization in the RFA.

“I don’t know a fire chief that wouldn’t want to build a new organization,” he said.

When comparing his leadership style to a piece of fire equipment, he said he is the aerial ladder because he is “always at the 30,000-foot level.”

Candidate Rich Brown (facing forward) speaks to FD1 Commissioner Jim McGaughey.

Rich Brown was the Deputy Chief of Operations for the Redmond Fire Department from 2014-2016. Before that, he worked his way up the ranks at the Colorado Springs Fire Department, where he worked from 1980-2013. He retired from that department as its Fire Chief in 2013.

He told the crowd that he initially moved to Redmond at the request of his former colleague from Colorado Springs, who was hired as Redmond’s Fire Chief. The former colleague asked Brown to be his deputy there and help him and his new department transition.

Brown has a bachelor’s degree from Regis University and a master’s degree from Colorado Christian University, both in Organizational Leadership.

He thinks he would be a good chief for the new RFA because he sees similarities between its challenges and obstacles he faced in Colorado Springs. For example, the department is looking to create an in-house academy and expand its wildlife deployment — both things he helped establish in Colorado Springs.

“I have been a change agent (in my career), not to change things just to change things, but because they needed to be changed,” he said.

When comparing his leadership style to a piece of fire equipment, he said he would be a radio, because he is a clear communicator. “I don’t do fluff and filler,” he said.

Candidate Kenneth McCarthy (left) speaks to community members, including Fire Captain Keith Sessions (center) and Lynnwood City Councilmember Shannon Sessions (right).

Kenneth McCarthy currently works as a Division Chief for the San Jose Fire Department in San Jose, California. He has been employed by the San Jose Fire Department since 1996, where he started his firefighting career as a firefighter. He has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from California State University–Chico.

Other than his fire experience, McCarthy also said he owns a small business that he built up over the years. He has since hired enough people that he can be hands-off of the business, but he said that experience gives him an edge because he can easily talk to people in civil service and those in commerce. He also has experience building up his employees.

“I tend to have a management style of helping others succeed,” he said.

He said it would be an opportunity and a pleasure to help create the RFA. He also developed a love for the northwest after many visits to a vacation spot on Whidbey.

When comparing his leadership style to a piece of fire equipment, he said he is a mass spectrometer because he is “transformational” and “not stuck in the past.”

Candidate Bruce Stedman speaks to community members.

Bruce Stedman has worked in fire service since 1978. His most recent position is as the fire chief for the Arlington Fire Department, where he has worked since 2010. Before that, he worked in Alhambra, California from 1978-2010. He worked his way up through the ranks, including fire chief, which was his last position there.

Stedmen holds a bachelor’s degree in Occupational Studies and a master’s degree in Emergency Services Administration, both from California State University–Long Beach. He also told the crowd Tuesday that he also received training in China, Japan, New Zealand and Denmark.

He said he is in his last years of work, which he called the “legacy” part of his career. He said he would be excited to lead the effort in uniting Fire District 1 and Lynnwood Fire and develop the RFA’s culture.

“We should be a leader, not just in the county, but in the region and even the state,” he said.

When comparing his leadership style to a piece of fire equipment, he said he would be a quint, a certain type of truck that contains a ladder and an engine. He highlighted several aspects of the quint and he related to it: the radio is communication, the ladder is leading from above and being transformational, the pump represents his energy and the hose represents his ability to connect.

–Story and photos by Natalie Covate

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