The Scappoose Fire District (SFD) has selected a final candidate and extended an offer to Dennis Hoke to serve as the new Joint Fire Chief to oversee SFD and Columbia River Fire & Rescue (CRFR).

Hoke comes from the Illinois Valley Fire District in Cave Junction, Oregon, where he has served as Chief Executive Officer since 2013. Current Joint Fire Chief Mike Greisen said Hoke is going through the final stages of the hiring process, such as completing a background check and drug screening, and will start on October 1.

Greisen announced his retirement plans on February 23 and according to David Sorenson, member of the SFD Board of Directors, Greisen is officially retired, but works on an hourly rate and will stay at least until Hoke officially joins. Greisen has served with the SFD since 1974, when he worked as a volunteer firefighter and was hired as an employee in 1989, according to SFD records. He has been the Joint Fire Chief since 2016.

“We still have to sign a contract with Chief Hoke, and make sure he clears medically,” Sorenson said. “As soon as he’s in, we’ll take the advice of Greisen and Hoke to see if Greisen needs to stick around a little longer.”

Sorenson said Hoke will have to get familiar with the area and how different entities in the community operate.

“The earliest that Greisen would leave would be October 1,” Sorenson said.

The two fire districts employ one Fire Chief because of an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) signed in 2016. The terms of the IGA designate SFD as the hiring board for new candidates, according to Jennifer Motherway, CRFR Recruitment and Retention Coordinator and Public Information Officer.

As The Chronicle previously reported, nine people applied for the position after Greisen announced his retirement.  

David Graham, president of the SFD Board of Directors, described the process of hiring a new joint chief as being very involved.

The nine candidates were narrowed down to five after an initial process where candidates were scored on experience and education, according to Sorenson.

The oversight committee, comprising two board directors from SFD and two from CRFR, then had face-to-face interviews with each of the five candidates, Sorenson said.

After the interviews, the two fire districts held a meet-and-greet open to the general public on July 28 at CCOM, the Columbia County 911 center, where members of the public could get to know the candidates.

The next day, the five candidates faced five different panels, each one formed of individuals with expertise in different areas.

“Of those five panels came the recommendations from each panel back to the oversight committee on how they rated each of the candidates,” Sorenson said.

Once those recommendations had been made, both boards had a joint meeting in executive session where they narrowed down the candidates to Hoke, Sorenson said.

“There was some back and forth discussion, but when all was said and done, it was pretty obvious that he was above the rest,” Sorenson said.

One way board members thought Hoke showed his talent was in his ability to handle an IGA between the two districts, according to Graham.

“He has a lot of experience. He’s managed large districts and small districts, he’s gone through consolidated operations, and brought them together under one leadership,” Graham said. “All those things we felt were very important.”

The two districts are in the process of finalizing Hoke’s contract, something that they will do through the Special Districts Association of Oregon (SDAO), according to Sorenson. The SDAO has been helping through the entire process with initial background checks, publicity about the position, as well as other aspects of the hiring.

Hoke has served in the United States Air Force and has more than 45 years of experience in fire services, according to his biography on the Illinois Valley Fire District website.

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