|Written by Greg Ruland|
|Thursday, 01 September 2011 12:00|
Former Sedona Fire District Fire Chief Nazih Hazime officially takes charge of Verde Valley Fire District on Monday, Sept. 19, following a unanimous vote by VVFD Board of Directors appointing him chief Aug. 23.
Hazime replaces interim VVFD Fire Chief Jerry Doerksen, who stepped down as chief in July after six years at the helm. Doerksen will continue to serve as interim chief until Hazime arrives in September. He will then serve as operations chief in Hazime’s new administration, Doerksen said.
“Chief Hazime and I have known each other professionally for some time, ever since he took the position in Sedona,” Doerksen said. “A lot of our leadership style is the same, and I think his leadership style will be a good fit for VVFD personnel and the residents of our community.”
“I have interacted with board members, members of the fire district and certainly with Chief Doerksen. It’s all been positive. I see nothing but professionalism from all these quality people who take pride in their work and the district they protect,” Hazime said.
Following a nearly six-hour negotiation with the board in executive session Aug. 22. Hazime agreed to accept an annual salary of slightly more than $100,000 plus a benefits package, board Chairman Gerald Shanks said.
“I’m getting an adequate salary but I’m also not getting a retirement pension like a normal long-term employee would get,” Hazime said.
VVFD’s fiscal year 2011-2012 budget included adequate funds to make the offer. The district saved on what it would normally pay Hazime in retirement benefits to help fund the salary package, Shanks said.
“We definitely didn’t blow our budget on this,” he said.
Hazime resigned from SFD in June after nearly two years as chief.
“We were lucky to have somebody in the Verde Valley with such an outstanding resume,” Shanks said. “His professionalism — the way he handles himself — I think he’ll really create a great atmosphere for our district going forward.”
Hazime’s appointment responds to a call for stability and strong leadership reflected in VVFD staff surveys conducted earlier this month, board member Dick Dobbin said.
Dobbin, who served as board chairman last year and was re-elected in 2010 to a second four-year term worked 31 years in California as a firefighter and administrator, including several years as a fire captain, before retiring to the Verde Valley.
One of the new chief’s strongest supporters, Dobbin said he watched Hazime in action with the frequently combative SFD Governing Board.
Dobbin started attending SFD meetings after former SFD Fire Chief Matt Shobert stepped down in 2008. He watched the recruitment process unfold and believed Sedona was fortunate to recruit a candidate of Hazime’s stature, he said.
“I wasn’t sure he knew what kind of a board he was getting into with [Clerk Charles] Christensen and [former board member Don] Harr, who were always opposed to what his administration was trying to accomplish,” Dobbin said.
“He bent over backwards for that board,” Dobbin said. “He reduced Sedona’s budget by $2 million. At one point, they had him working on a budget that didn’t allow him to pay his people. You can’t do that.”
“I admired his ability to have the public contact he did — getting beat up on one side by the majority of his board, but not coming back and lambasting them as much as he probably wanted to,” he said.
Dobbin said VVFD saved fire district taxpayers thousands of dollars by not conducting a drawn-out national search like the one Sedona conducted, instead hiring Hazime in a relatively short time frame.
“I think he’s tremendous,” Dobbin said. “He’s going to bring such an uplift to this district.”