STRASBURG (WJER) (Feb. 23, 2022) – The village’s fire department is getting a new leader although the current one isn’t happy about it.
Council has hired Steve Laskey from University Heights as the department’s new full-time chief beginning March 1st. Mayor Steve Smith says the village will be retaining the current chief, Andy Slemmer, for the next three months to ensure a smooth transition, after which he will likely be offered another position within the department.
“Yes, it’s sort of a demotion. If he’s a member of the fire department, volunteer – he can be a paid part-timer – that’s up to him on where he wants to go from that point.”
Slemmer was among the seven candidates interviewed by the hiring committee that included the mayor, three council members, and a village resident. Smith says they used a grading scale to rank the interviewees based on their qualifications, and Laskey came out on top.
“He’s got 28 years of fire department experience. His current employer is the Cleveland Hopkins Airport as a firefighter but he’s got a number of years working at the Hiram Fire Department. He had a few years at the Burton Fire Department and another number of years at the Little [Miami] Joint Fire Department outside of Cincinnati.”
Slemmer voiced his opposition to the arrangement during last week’s village council meeting, noting that it’s the first time in the department’s 124-year history that members haven’t had a say in who becomes chief.
“I feel like I got railroaded, to be honest with you. I feel like you guys were tiptoeing around and no one told me the process of what was going on.”
Laskey will be making $60,000 annually, which is $52,000 more than the village pays Slemmer, who’s employed in that role on a part-time basis. Smith says Laskey’s wages and benefits will come out of the general fund, not collections from the tax levy voters in the village and Franklin Township approved last May, which will be used to increase staffing to provide 24-7 fire and EMS protection.
“Those funds will still be there to be used for payroll. The levy wasn’t solely for payroll but that was the intent to use that money for payroll.”
Laskey is unable to move to the area because of residency obligations related to a child custody agreement, but Smith says that shouldn’t be a problem since the majority of his duties will be administrative.