Kenosha Fire Department Chief Charles Leipzig, second from left, speaks to reporters at the scene of a fire in Uptown on Aug. 12, 2020. Leipzig has submitted his resignation from his position as chief. Deputy Chief Christopher Bigley will serve as the interim chief of the department. Photo by Daniel Thompson/The Uptown Observer.

KENOSHA ⏤At its Tuesday morning meeting, the Police and Fire Commission reviewed possible changes to the city’s recruitment processes, specifically new-hire written tests.

During the meeting, Samantha Thorstad, HR analyst for the city, recommended doing away with the written test portion of the recruitment process. 

Audio of the citizens’ comments read into the record at the Dec. 15, 2020, Kenosha Police and Fire Commission meeting. Recording by Daniel Thompson/The Uptown Observer.

‘Could mean some bias in the test’

“The commission sets the weight of percentages for when we’re doing a police or fire recruitment,” Thorstad said.

“For the Kenosha Fire Department recruitment, we actually found adverse impact, which simply means that the scores for the testing, we found that one or more protected groups didn’t … they didn’t score well, which could mean there was some bias in the test.”

In light of that finding, the HR department opted to “cancel out the written test scores so that there was no disparate impact.” 

“Which means we have 40 percent of the scores unaccounted for,” she continued. “The other two percentages in this process would be the panel interview and the chief’s interview. In talking with Chief Leipzig, as well as Steve Stanczyk, our recommendation would be to take the 40 percent that would normally be reserved for the written test and break that into 20 percent over both of the interviews.”

As its approval was needed to make the changes, the commission unanimously approved the measures off a motion from commissioner Geri Cucunato.

Fire chief recruitment

The commission also heard of the process proposed to replace Kenosha Fire Chief Charles Leipzig, who is retiring. Deputy Fire Chief Christopher Bigley will serve as the interim fire chief of the department. 

Tuesday served as Leipzig’s final Police and Fire Commission meeting. 

According to Thorstad, the process to fill the position will entail a job posting, two interviews and two “assessment centers.”

“The commission does have the ability to do an assessment center where they evaluate candidates who have gone through the interviews and passed said interviews for competencies that they need to be a good leader, as well as the job trait assessments, which was done in Chief Leipzig’s recruitment by the same person who does the psychological assessments for new fire department recruits,” Thorstad said.

Assessment centers

Human Resources Department Director Mike Stanczyk further elaborated on the process.

“What occurs is we will seek out a few firms that actually do these,” he said. “We’ll bring them to the commission. That firm, or firms, can kind of give an overview as far as what they’re proposing, how they want to go about recruiting, how they’ll construct the assessment center and what the interview components will be. 

“My experience with the assessment centers is that they will bring to the assessment center the fire chiefs in this case from other jurisdictions that would be the technical experts that would filter out applicants through the interview process and then certify the top candidates for the commission to interview them as well.”

‘Unique’ prior chief recruitment process

Both Thorstad and Stanczyk strongly recommended the utilization of a national search to fill the position. This breaks from the seeming tradition of the commission recruiting for the chief’s position from within, according to Stanczyk.

“Now, police and fire have been a little unique such that commissions have elected to just go strictly internal,” Stanczyk said. “I would say that a national search, in particular in light of some of the current events affecting the community and at least the sensitivity that we or the commission may want to consider on at least exploring diversity options for the fire chief.” 

“Of course, that does not mean you’re beholden that somebody has to come from the outside,” Stanczyk added. “It just means that it may be an opportunity at least to explore options.”

The commission voted to discuss the job requirements for the position at its next meeting on Jan. 19, 2021. 

Leipzig says goodbye

As stated during the meeting, Tuesday served as Liepzig’s final time giving comments to the commission as a city official.

In his comments, Leipzig thanked the community and other staff for their support during his tenure.

“I want to thank all of you for your support over the years,” the chief said. “It’s been truly an honor and a privilege to serve as the fire chief of the Kenosha Fire Department. I can’t say that enough. I also want to thank Chief Miskinis for his guidance and his counsel over the years. He’s really been kind of like a big brother ⏤ a much older big brother ⏤ and helped me out in my time here navigating the political waters. 

“And again, thank you all.”

Police chief, commissioners thank Leipzig for service

Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis shared Leipzig’s appreciation for their working relationship over the years.

“Chuck, on behalf of the police department and the citizens I’ve talked to, you’ve done a great job leading during some very difficult times,” Miskinis said. “And without a doubt, you’ll be missed.”

Well wishes from each of the commissioners followed Miskinis’ statements.

“Chuck, you will be missed,” said Cucunato. “I’ve enjoyed working with you over the years.”

“Congratulations, Chief, you made it,” commissioner Everett Butler said. “You can go on ahead and ride off into the sunset, I guess. Do whatever you want.”

“To Chief Liepzig, congratulations on your retirement, a new chapter in your life,” said commissioner Richard Gallo, adding that Leipzig should reach out if he needs suggestions for things to do in retirement. 

Commissioner Richard Gallo thanked Leipzig for his “forthright dealing” with the commission over Gallo’s time serving on it.

“And for sharing his expertise with us,” he added. “There is no doubt in my mind that his opinions and his expertise will be missed.”

Commission chairman Bruce McCurdy offered the final comments on Leipzig’s departure, giving a brief, but meaningful audit of Leipzig’s work.

“Chief Liepzig has done a fantastic job,” McCurdy said. “When I started on the commission, when I was newer, we selected you.

“And you’ve done a fine job. Thank you very much.”

Rating: 1 out of 5.

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Daniel Thompson is an independent journalist and the founder of The Uptown Observer based in the Kenosha, Wis., area. He started in journalism at the Western Nebraska Observer in 2012 and, most notably,...