Jason Viveiros resigned as Halifax Fire Chief/Emergency Management Director and began a new position as Fire Chief in Pembroke on June 1.
“I truly appreciate the opportunity to serve this great community for the last eight years. I couldn’t be prouder of what this Department has accomplished during this time. I will forever be grateful to the men and women of the Halifax Fire Department for their support and commitment to public safety. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance during the transition process,” Viveiros’ letter of resignation read.
The Halifax Board of Selectmen met with Viveiros on Wednesday, May 25 to discuss the possible appointment of an interim Fire Chief as well as the recruitment process for a new Chief. Viveiros, who had written a letter of recommendation, said he was recommending that the Board name Captain Jeff Cuozzo as the interim, pending contract negotiation. Viveiros said that Cuozzo had assumed that role in the past for over 6 months.
“He is the senior officer in the Department. Jeff is highly educated – has a master’s degree, multiple bachelor’s degrees, many fire service certifications. He is more than capable to serve in the interim role,” Viveiros said. Selectman Ashley DiSesa asked Cuozzo if it was something that he wanted to take on and he responded, “Yes, in the interim, yes.” DiSesa also asked him if he had a timeline for how long he was willing to act in the role. “Nope, no, I’m available… I really am flexible with the town. Whatever the town needs,” Cuozzo said. He did make it clear that the permanent role was not something he was interested in at this time in his life and career.
Regarding recruitment, Viveiros said that a lot of towns spend a lot of money on advertising and large searches. He told the Board, “My opinion, there is going to be a lot of local candidates that are highly qualified that would be best suited for the position.” Viveiros read a bit from a sample listing that he created. He said, “the ideal candidate would have a bachelor’s degree in public administration or a related field, 15 years of professional experience in an EMS/Fire Department, and at least five years as a company officer or higher.” Viveiros also offered a recommended salary which was disclosed only to the Selectmen.
Viveiros said that his template could be posted to the Mass Municipal Jobs website. He also recommended forwarding it the Fire Chiefs Association of MA (FCAM). He said it would reach all firefighters in Massachusetts and even some out of state firefighters who may be searching for a job.
Viveiros told the Selectmen that some towns hire a consultant. He recommended the current Secretary/Treasurer of FCAM and said that he asked him to offer a quote to the Board. He said that he could run an assessment center that would involve bringing in retired chiefs to act as evaluators. That group would do initial interviews, pick four finalists that they would run through the assessment center, and then offer a final recommendation to the Board. Viveiros said that the consultant he conferred with recommended possibly forming a Committee consisting of a Selectman, Town Administrator, Police Chief, and possibly a citizen at large to assist in the interview process.
DiSesa initially recommended trying to search without the consultant first to see how it goes. Selectman Jonathan Selig felt that it would be better to go with a consultant. “It’s pretty reasonable to have someone assess the candidates and have someone that is totally unbiased that can structure those interview questions,” Viveiros said of the consultant fee and services. “I, for one, know I’m not qualified to read a resume for fire chief,” Selectman Alex Meade said. After the discussion, DiSesa agreed. They agreed to form a search committee consisting of Selig, Interim Town Administrator Ed Thorne, Cuozzo, Police Chief Joao Chaves pending his agreement, and a citizen at large. Talent bank forms will need to be submitted for residents interested in serving on the Committee.
The Selectmen voted to form the Search Committee and have Viveiros post the job description the very next day. They also voted to have Selig take the lead in working with the consultant. Cuozzo was named as the Interim Fire Chief. “I just want to have on the record, just to thank you for all you’ve done – going above and beyond and doing more than the average fire chief does,” Selig said to Viveiros. Cuozzo said he was happy that Viveiros would still be nearby.