New Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler has her first real appointment to be made in the near future–and it will certainly say much on how she will manage the City. Part of the deal brokered with the old guard Shreveport power structure to put Tyler into office was her selection of former Shreveport Fire Chief Brian Crawford as her CAO. Now comes a totally discretionary choice–and what real criteria Tyler will utilize for her selection will probably never be known.
Thirty-six candidates applied to the position; 35 were approved to move to the next selection level and 27 of them took the required Fire Chief exam to qualify. The field has been narrowed–by somebody or group–to 6 finalists; perhaps Tyler’s transition team was involved albeit the team’s self-imposed code of silence precludes any revelation of what role if any this group has had in the process. And for that matter this group may be part of the final selection process.
On paper, the 6 all appear to be well-qualified for the job–but so did former Chief Craig Mulford who obviously did not read the memo on how to handle inquiries from law enforcement officials and especially the FBI. As for experience, the finalists range have a minimum of 27 years of service ranging up to 38 years. All have bachelor degrees–5 in organizational management and 1 in business administration; 5 also have associate degrees. And as far as job titles the gamut runs from retired battalion chief, assistant chief/shift commander, chief of training/academy director, deputy fire chief/acting interim fire chief, administrative assistant to the fire chief, and chief of special operations and safety.
Tyler’s initial personnel moves have certainly show a bias for her supporters–and an axe to grind for those who did not start off with her in the primary. The appointment of William Bradford as deputy city attorney is certainly a political reward for the son of a good friend who also was active in her campaign. And if Bradford is elevated to City Attorney after the expected departure of Terri Scott, then her other supporters can line up and get hired at City Hall Likewise, an attorney who supported her opponent in the primary was stripped of many of his city files on Tyler’s first few days in office. These actions are not surprising, but are certainly contrary to the Tyler spin of being the mayor for “all of Shreveport”.
Many believe that CAO Crawford will make the real pick for Chief–and that he will want a “step and fetch it appointee” that will follow Crawford’s company line. If that is the case, the choice will certainly be Ronald Jones–the acting chief who only has the position because several turned it down. Jones is long in the tooth and is considered to be a “company man”; many in the department are less than impressed with his leadership credentials. Jones is considered by many in middle management to be harmless in the sense that he will let the real worker bees run the department with little or no interference; some question if that will be the case with former chief Crawford.
The fire chief’s race will be important in the sense that in recent history the fire chief and the police chief were of different races. Put another way, both spots were NOT held by 2 blacks or 2 whites. Tyler has indicated that current Shreveport Police Chief Willie Shaw is on thin ice–and most observers do not expect him to hold his spot very long. Shaw is black and former fire chief Mulford is white–how much significance Tyler gives to race will not be publicly known but will be a topic of discussion among citizens, like it or not. If Tyler ends up with both top spots filled by the same race, she can expect criticism and questioning which she abhors.
Selection of the fire chief is important , but it will not be an earth-shattering decision because of the strong organization that really runs a department that has an exemplary record of service. And until the Station 8 debacle concerning treatment of mentally disadvantaged adults erupted last year, the department rarely if ever had any negative press. So the pick by Tyler will be a “safe” one no matter who ends up on top; it will, however have a effect on other key selections and that is why it is more important than it may appear on first blush. The easy ride for Tyler will continue a little longer, but these days are numbered and how she will really handle the political pressures of being Mayor are yet to be known.