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

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.

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

  1. @ Jon Spangler- This isn't about firefighters, this is about the firefighters' UNION. The union has every right to lobby but they cross a line with coercion. You should be wary of councilmembers who coerce city staff.


  2. I do not understand why some people are so vehemently anti-union – at least behind the veil of spineless anonymity. If you have something worthwhile to say, you should be willing to put your (real) name on it: don't call principled officials who are working for justice and fairness “morally bankrupt” unless you have the guts to sign your name to those false accusations.

    Union activists in the United States have fought–and died–for a century to bring about safer working conditions (including for firefighters, who encounter toxic and carcinogenic chemicals almost every day), the 40-hour work week (and weekends), safer food, and workers' rights for all of us. And unionized firefighters have the same rights to organize and speak out politically for what they believe in as big corporations.

    Big real estate corporations and lobbyists bought last November's renter's rights election with over $1,000,000 in expenditures. The same people funded this year's “astroturf” petition drive to keep screwing renters out of fair housing rights with a few more hundreds of thousands of greenbacks. And the slimebalms from Suncal tried to buy the 2010 City Council election for over $500,000… The unions' local expenditures pale in comparison.

    Now, back to the article itself.

    I think calling the reaction to our city manager's decision to hire an outsider as our fire chief is a “stunning reversal” is overblown and premature. While Alameda Fire has had a tradition of home-grown chiefs, it has also had outsiders at the helm. While our locally-developed AFD leaders have done very well, it seems wise to get a fresh leadership perspective once in a while.

    I have many friends and acquaintances among the AFD, including the command staff, and I have seen them at work. Our firefighters are
    responsible, dedicated people who will adapt to the new chief and give him a fair chance. I am sure they will welcome him and help him do a good job as the leader of what already is a terrific fire department.

    I hope the anonymous posters who oppose union workers and fair working conditions are not so unfortunate as to need the services of the AFD, but if they are, they will be in very capable hands. At that point, perhaps they will change their misinformed opinions about the sworn firefighters who serve them 24/7/365 at great personal risk.


  3. Oddie, Vella and del Bono are morally and ethically bankrupt. Typical politicians who do what's best for them and to heck with the City and everyone else.


  4. The article did not in any way belittle or minimize the brave work done by firefighters. If it did so indirectly, please point out how and where because it is not apparent. The article simply addressed issues concerning the selection of the next chief, how that decision gets made, and the undeniable influence that the firefighters union has on politics in Alameda. As to your final point, it is almost entirely true, especially on a day to day basis. When the big one hits, however, just as in Mexico City last week and in 1985, you will see ordinary civilians forced to do what they think they were incapable or unwilling to do.


  5. That may be, but the union shouldn't be leaning on the City Administration on staffing selections, and the City Council (Vella & Oddie) shouldn't be blinded by union money when they have a pretty heavy say in what's best for the City. If the firefighter's union has that much control, we might as well just elect del Bono as Mayor and his supporting union staff as councilmembers.


  6. This article is extremely one sided and sounds like an opinion piece. Which is fine, everyone is entitled to their opinion. We all might remember that our first responders put themselves in harm's way every day they go to work. They go inside burning buildings when the rest of us are running out of them. They see accident victims, overdoses, domestic violence victims all on a daily basis. We all might remeber that vefore we judge them and call them names. They do what the rest of aren't capable of or aren't willing to do.


  7. What business does the Fire union, elected city officials and Bonta have interfering in the selection of a Fire Chief? That seems highly unethical and maybe even illegal. I think it's time the good people of Alameda step up to support Keimach and send a message to corrupt elected officials and unions.


  8. City Managers, Police Chiefs and Fire Chiefs bring their own baggage and otherwise unemployable co-workers from their previous city employers. Retirees/Double Dips and triple flips always have an edge when they buddy up with their city managers who flee to surrounding cities.


  9. Jill Keimach does not live in Alameda. 95 percent of the firefighters do not live in Alameda. The police chief does not live in Alameda. 95 percent of the police officers do not live in Alameda. The head of public works does not live in Alameda… Alameda is little more than an income stream from residents to their rulers. It is a colony. Even the wealthiest and whitest among them are little more than provincials. Nothing good happening here. Stay away.


  10. By MW:

    1. I am the real MW, and I did NOT do the above post. However, I have to admit it is witty, and also much better done and reasoned than most of the posts of some months ago that one or more people did when they pretended to be me.

    2. While I do not live in the city of Alameda and am also not familiar with its Fire Department, however it is extremely common for fire departments, and especially in the Bay area, to be at least largely composed of extreme alcoholics. And it also seems that the alcoholics in management in fire departments tend to promote their friends and drinking buddies, so therefore if a particular fire department is fifty percent composed of alcoholics, its upper management could easily be eighty to one hundred percent composed of alcoholics, and even extreme alcoholics.

    So if I were Jill Keimach, the very first thing I would look into concerning any contenders for the position of Fire Chief would be to make sure that none of them are alcoholics.


  11. By MW:

    As an Alameda taxpayer, the union whores need to take a deep breath, calm down, and then jump in the bay. They need to understand that they work for their master or mistress, the city manager, and the voters. The union whores have no say-NONE–in deciding who their immediate leader will be.

    I declare, these union sluts seem to believe that they are in some way 'relevant,' for lack of a better word. Just the opposite. Theirs is but to do or….


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