Council names Nelson interim chief

Duane A. Nelson was appointed interim chief of the Idaho Falls Fire Department on Thursday night.

Nelson, who was recommended for the position by Mayor Rebecca Casper, won a unanimous endorsement from City Council members.

“I believe I am up to the chal-

lenge,” Nelson said after the announcement. “There is so much to do.”

Nelson will lead the department for the next 60 to 90 days, while the city seeks a permanent replacement for Fire Chief Dean Ellis.

Earlier this month, Ellis announced he was stepping down to become manager of fire service training at Eastern Idaho Technical College. His final day as fire chief was May 16.

“He had requisite leadership qualities,” Casper said. “He demonstrated them in his interviews.”

In recommending Nelson, Casper bypassed a number of higher ranking officers within the Fire Department, including battalion chiefs.

“A few of the battalion chiefs would not have really even been in the running because of pending retirement,” Casper said. “What Mr. Nelson brings to the table is not only experience in fire service, but also education and also a military background.”

Nelson, a driver/operator, joined the department in 1997. He was president of the Idaho Falls Fire Fighters Local 1565, but resigned the position May 14.

During his 17 years with the department, Nelson also has served as a lead fire investigator and fire inspector, as well as CPR coordinator and instructor in several different areas of expertise.

In 2004, Nelson was named firefighter of the year.

Since 1996, Nelson has served as a fire team leader with the Idaho Army National Guard, according to his resume. In 2012, he received a bachelor’s degree in fire service administration from Idaho State University.

While Nelson’s salary as interim fire chief was not announced Thursday night, the city’s fire chief position pays an annual salary of $100,609. But Casper said Nelson’s salary as interim chief had not yet been determined.

In a written statement to City Council members before Thursday night’s announcement, Casper touted Nelson’s leadership abilities.

“I feel confident that he has both the energy and the incentive to do a good job at this time,” she said in the statement. “His experience, education and training all lead me to trust that he is fit to serve the city well in the interim.”

Nelson, Casper continued, “fully intends to compete vigorously for the permanent position.”

The city expects to start advertising the job next week, though a firm date has not yet been set, Casper said after the meeting.