UK fire chief to stay despite succession promise

| 30/09/2020 | 47 Comments
Cayman News Service
Chief Fire Officer Paul Walker

(CNS): More than five years after Premier Alden McLaughlin refused to endorse the recruitment of a foreign chief fire office at a Legislative Assembly Finance Committee hearing, the contract for the latest CFO recruited from the UK has been extended for another two years in the face of unfulfilled succession plan promises. The one-year contract for CFO Paul Walker has been renewed until September 2022, when a local officer will take the reins, according to a release Wednesday.

Walker came to Cayman following the departure of David Hails, who was recruited from the UK in 2016 on the understanding that he would put a succession plan in place to prepare a local officer to take the job at the end of his three-year term. But after his contracted ended, Hails failed to fulfill that commitment.

This led to the recruitment of Walker as an interim chief last September on contract for just one year. He, too, committed to finding a Caymanian replacement for himself before the end of his contract.

When Walker arrived, three long-serving senior Caymanian officers, Brevon Elliott, Roy Charlton and Tina Ebanks, had already been appointed as deputy chief fire officers (DCFOs) and one of them was expected to take over the CFO post once the year was up. On arrival Walker said the main goal for his 12-month tenure was to replace himself with a local officer.

But in the release officials revealed that a decision had been made that he would stay, “following an assessment of ongoing professional development” over the past 12 months.

As part of what was described as another two-year succession plan, Walker will recommend a Caymanian candidate to act as chief fire officer designate from September next year, “following a rigorous and challenging selection process”.

That candidate will then spend a year working with Walker to take up the job on 1 September 2022. In the official press release, the three deputies were quoted as welcoming that decision.

Elliot, Ebanks and Charlton said that at first they had been hesitant about his appointment but now they “fully recognise that his knowledge and support has helped to assist us with restructuring and professionalising the Cayman Islands Fire Service”.

Despite the fact that Walker has also failed to fulfill his primary goal of readying a local officer for the job over the last twelve months, officials lauded his work. Chief Officer in the Ministry of Home Affairs Dax Basdeo said he had had a positive impact on the CIFS by sharing “his experiences and learnings” to support the DCFOs’ development.

“I am confident the organisation and personnel will continue to benefit from Chief Walker’s leadership over the next two years. It will lay a strong foundation on which a future Caymanian chief fire officer can continue to build a high performing, well equipped, best in class fire and rescue service,” Basdeo said.

It has been a busy year for the CIFS, with an earthquake, the landfill fires and the COVID-19 pandemic. The service has also recruited 21 new local firefighters and introduced a new shift pattern to cut overtime and maintain safe standards. The delivery, training and rollout of new breathing apparatus and hydraulic road rescue equipment was also completed this year, among many other changes.

Walker said he had enjoyed his first year in Cayman very much. “I have been impressed with the dedication, professionalism and flexibility of colleagues across CIFS and the Cayman Islands Government,” he said in the release.

“Major incidents including an earthquake, large landfill site fires and the COVID-19 pandemic have all provided excellent operational and command experiential learning for colleagues across CIFS. Nevertheless, the impact on our human resource capacity to deliver organisational and personal development outcomes within one year has been clear,” he added without explaining the failure to replace himself.

“I very much look forward to continuing to guide CIFS to becoming the fire service it aspires to be, and to develop our senior officers to reach their potential,” he said.

According to the release, Walker has presented the Ministry of Home Affairs with a two-year plan that supports continued professional development for the DCFOs. It also delivers key strategic projects relating to equipment, buildings, training, structure and operations.

Part of the planned professional development includes a four-month rotation of functions for the deputies to all three CIFS departments: Aviation, Domestic and Administration. A series of workshops to support strategic areas of work are also planned, along with two-week secondments to the UK for all three DCFOs to explore new ways of working and different types of fire and rescue equipment.

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Comments (47)

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  1. Edgar Poe says:

    So many experts on here. Why don’t some of you apply for the Chief position ? There is a lot more to it than just giving orders. Many of the firefighters have gone to college and fire college for expert training but that doesn’t mean they can jump into the Chief’s shoes. Nothing happens before it’s time.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You watch now, Bernie Bush will crawl out from under his stone and start with his qualified caymanian nonsense. Save your breath bush. If there was someone competent they would have been given the job, there is not.
    And being Caymanian is not a competency however much you wish it was.

    • Anonymous says:

      I understand your point about being Caymanian doesn’t equal competency, but look around all the other departments; who has the top jobs? Are you saying all Caymanians are unqualified for most if not all roles?

      Those 3 deputies need to look other jobs or start their out businesses because clearly they’ll never become the Chief.

    • Anonymous says:

      They only focus on jobs being held by the few British people, BUT I now dare every declared candidate, current MLA, (even CNS) to take the current list of jobs advertised for jobs in civil service and check the nationality of the persons selected…. .

      And I can bet majority will be Jamaicans, Trinidadians and if Caymanian, status holders NOT Generational Caymanians.

      Look forward to the results, take that snippet today and in three months check potholder, all public information. Let’s show the preferential treatment given to Jamaicans and Trinidadians and legally THAT should be investigated.

  3. Anonymous says:

    fire service…the dream job for every caymanian….

  4. Anonymous says:

    His domino game must be strong

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually, I know him well, and his fire chief game is what’s strong. He’s a lovely guy, an absolutel champion of and for Caymanians, and brilliant at his job. He got this job on his own, no favours, no domino games. And he knows he’s going home. He will do Cayman proud.

  5. Anonymous says:

    In a few more years he will have status. Then it will be “a Caymanian in the post”. End of story. Next!!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    You mean the former acting fire chief whose car ran down two brothers while allegedly being driven by a Jamaican called Buju, who arrived on island in a canoe and then was lent the car by the acting fire chief so he could go check on a woman… didn’t get the job? It’s a travesty!

  7. Anonymous says:

    keep the expert expat…

  8. Anonymous says:

    The Cayman Islands Fire Service should be at least an 80% volunteer operation

  9. Anonymous says:

    You all need to question Franz about this. He is head of the civil service.

    • Anonymous says:

      Franz has lot the pot..Success and power, like most of the politicians, has gone to his head..

      He is more interested in keeping his name in the limelight. He doesn’t understand that one day, they are coming for him too.

    • Anonymous says:

      Traitors always exist among our own. WE are our worse enemy

    • Anonymous says:

      Our DG is doing the right thing. Didn’t you read the press release.

      I am a proud civil servant who has benefited greatly during Mr Manderson tenure as DG.

      If the civil service was not interested in training Caymanians why were they having zoom training sessions during COVID-19.

      I don’t understand why people don’t understand that our DG is fixing a problem that has been happening for years. Namely promoting based on Tenure and not capability.

      In a year we will have a highly capable Caymanian fire chief. Get over it.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Succession planning doesn’t happen in a year. I can tell you that this is the best fire chief we have ever had in the fire service.

    Moreover this is the best our fire service has ever performed.

    Congrats to our Caymanian deputies who supported this appointment. Soon we will have a highly capable Caymanian fire chief.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you really think the deputies would say he was bad in any way..They value their jobs..There is no other fire service on the island..Support him, shut up, keep your career or get fired and go find another job..

  11. Anonymous says:

    Sun,fun and d’rum. Best place on earth, very few who come want to be replaced or train a Caymanian. Private sector been doing it, now public sector. What a joke, the one before was even supposed to be a trainer.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The simple truth is that if any Caymanian had the intellect, work ethic and leadership ability to be a good Chief Fire Officer he would be making a killing in the private sector, not fighting his way up the ranks of the fire service.

    • anon says:

      8.19pm This could be the problem – no matter how hard you try if someone simply does not have the ability to fill a job, no amount of training will cure the problem. Herein lies the quandary do we promote a Caymanian if he is really not up to it.

      • Anonymous says:

        I wish to commend the civil service and the three Caymanians deputies for putting the needs of these islands above everything else.

        You all wanted the civil service to perform like the private sector. Well this is what it looks like. Only highly capable persons are promoted.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Alden is just so full of shit

  14. Anonymous says:

    How did the earthquake keep them so busy? Caymanians are so gullible.

  15. Firefighter says:

    Why the angry face? Deputies love fire chief as he have vast of experience and learn a lot about firefighting from him. In Cayman they don’t have many calls out not like in London or UK. Be patience and we will have world finest local fire chief.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Why are our fire officers not cross trained as paramedics and special constables? The efficiencies created would be enormous, and lives would probably be saved. It is how many other countries do it.

    • Anonymous says:

      That requires work.

      • Anonymous says:

        Ooohhh, don’t want that to happen. Might break a sweat waiting for the next dump fire.

      • Anonymous says:

        So give them a 10% pay rise and make them do it. I am sick and tired of the waste and General shit government gets up to, papering over the cracks with imported labour doing jobs that Caymanians should be doing. Necessity is the mother of all invention.

        • Anonymous says:

          Sounds like the UK Fire Chiefs have tried but the quality of the guys below isn’t good enough, at least not yet.

          • Anonymous says:

            Fine, then require all new hires to be cross trained as part of their qualification/induction. Then at least it will be achieved a generation from now.

          • Anonymous says:

            You can’t pour water into a bucket with a hole and expect it to fill up. Many many of our firemen are the salt of the earth, deserving of their job and salary and pension. But they are NOT well known for their academic ability and personnel skills.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am not a member of CIFS but I’ll stick up for them here.

      I’m not sure about not busy… they attend many serious crashes and have to clean oil and other fluids from the roads in the aftermath. They have plenty of idiots starting brush fires. A good amount of the officers are trained in first aid, and will administer help until a fully trained and equipped paramedic arrives. They work in unpleasant environments that many people commenting here could not handle, due to heat, gore, heights or similar.

      • Anonymous says:

        And yet every time there is an accident the police, fire service and paramedics all attend and most of them are standing around doing nothing. The three services should be largely combined.

        • Anonymous says:

          Here we go again another armchair expert.

          • Anonymous says:

            Nope. Just a guy from small town USA where fire and paramedics were college educated and cross trained providing the service – supplemented by trained volunteers for particular emergencies.

        • Anonymous says:

          And sending video and pictures to their buddy Catron.

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