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Special meeting slated to address fire dept. issues
Monroe Fire Department

MONROE — As the search for a new fire chief drags on, Monroe Mayor Donna Douglas has called a special city council meeting to further discuss lingering fire department issues.

The mayor announced her intentions during last Monday’s City Council meeting. On Douglas’ agenda for the meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m., she said, is the “discussion and possible action regarding the structure and operations of the Monroe Fire Department.”

Douglas did not elaborate on what she specifically has in mind for the meeting. But prior to her announcement she conceded that she was “frustrated” by the lack of information; and progress on the fire-chief hiring effort.

Ald. Andrew Kranig was among those to say he agreed with the idea of the meeting, along with Heidi Treuthardt, who separately asked if an ‘ad-hoc’ city committee could be convened for the same purpose. 

Following a long search, Monroe’s most recent chief, William Erb of Iowa, abruptly resigned from his new post on Monday, April 11 — just 3 months and 1 day after taking the job. 

According to PFC Chair Charles Koch, the reason for the abrupt resignation of the newest Monroe chief “was directly related to the turmoil in the fire department.”

Hiring for the chief’s job is actually the role of the police and fire commission, and some officials have complained about the pace of their effort; and the cost to find a replacement chief, which is financed by the city. 

Police and fire commissions were created in the state ostensibly to help insulate public safety leadership from political considerations.

The meeting next Monday will be an open one, according to City Attorney Dan Bartholf. Many of the government meetings surrounding the fire chief — as with any other employment-related issue — are allowed to be closed to the public, under state open meetings laws.

The mostly volunteer fire department has long struggled with leadership issues. 

Al Rufer is in his second stint as interim chief. Daryl Rausch was chief for 11 years, leaving in 2016. Lane Heins was the interim chief until Dan Smits was hired, eventually serving for four years, ending in August 2021. 

Rufer took over as interim a year ago until Erb began, and then again after Erb’s abrupt resignation. 

Once a new chief is hired, it will be the sixth person in charge of the department in seven years.

Douglas, meanwhile, said she will consider a request by Treuthardt to create the ad-hoc committee “to look at other ways the fire department could be managed.”