Alameda city manager’s choice of a new fire chief could put her in the hot seat

ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL
Alameda’s city manager is in a tough bind. With the retirement of Alameda Fire Chief Doug Long last week, City Manager Jill Keimach is likely to tab an outsider to lead the fire department, according to sources, possibly this week.

But Keimach, who was only hired in March 2016, is facing enormous pressure to choose the candidate backed by the Alameda International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Union Local 689, a number of elected city officials, and Assemblymember Rob Bonta.

Although Long’s retirement was only announced a day prior to its effective date last week, the search for his replacement had been moving along for months, according to sources. Keimach, in fact, had originally eyed Moraga Fire Chief Steve Healy for the job. Keimach previously served as Moraga’s town manager.

Resistance toward an outsider helming the Alameda Fire Department led Keimach to refocus the search. However, she named Healy to the city panel created to identify potential candidates.

It is possible, according to two sources, that Keimach will thread the needle by mollifying the firefighters union and name a current member of the fire department, albeit not the union’s preferred candidate. The move, though, might not quell the union’s anger.

Nonetheless, Keimach’s predicament and the pushback she is receiving is a stunning reversal from just months ago when her early tenure appeared to move along without a hitch.

But just in the last month grumblings against her personal style and the handling of the water leaks at Alameda Point have become pervasive.

Some officials privately charged Keimach with being missing in action during the early moments of the water leak incident. And during a recent council meeting, one councilmember asserted the city administration, without naming Keimach, was failing to move along council directions on cannabis dispensaries and rent-related items.