Some jobs just keep pulling you back.
That’s something Tim Pierce learned after agreeing to take over as interim fire chief for Central Pierce Fire & Rescue with 30-minutes’ notice.
The position came open earlier this year when the former interim chief, Jack Andren retired. After a few weeks with nobody leading the department, the Board of Commissioners asked Pierce at its Aug. 15 meeting to fill in until a new chief could be found.
On Tuesday, after 29 days on the job, Pierce sent the board a letter of resignation and asked to return to being deputy chief in charge of field operations.
“It became clear that I wasn’t going to be able to keep the organization moving forward in the way that I’d hoped,” Pierce told The News Tribune.
On Thursday, on the advice of legal counsel and at the board’s request, Pierce agreed to remain as interim chief. The decision came after Pierce spoke with commissioners and union leaders.
He declined Friday to say why he thought he couldn’t move the organization forward or what issues he discussed with the board and union leaders.
“We’ve worked through those issues and I’m willing to do it,” he said. “The important thing to know is that Central Pierce is still doing great business.”
The department is led by a chief, two deputy chiefs and five assistant chiefs. Assistant chiefs have union representation; deputy chiefs and the chief are at-will positions.
Although the board can ask anyone to be interim chief, it chose Pierce because the other deputy chief, Baron Banks, is too busy managing the department’s bond projects.
When Pierce, 53, became interim chief, his deputy chief position was filled by then-Assistant Chief Pat Donovan. But Donovan has just announced he will retire at the end of the month and has accepted a job elsewhere.
Pierce said that’s one of the reasons he agreed to stay at the helm of Central Pierce.
“It’s unfortunate timing,” he said.
This isn’t the first time a Central Pierce administrator has tried to voluntarily take a step back.
In 2015, Pierce asked to step down to an assistant chief position, but rescinded the request because none of the positions were vacant.
That same year, former Chief Kenneth Wright abruptly changed jobs for fear the board was going to oust him. Commissioners never disclosed any problems they might have had with Wright’s leadership.
He became assistant chief in charge of health and wellness programs, and accepted a $3,011-per-month cut in his $14,555 monthly salary.
The board then asked Andren, who previously was chief until May 2010, to come out of retirement to lead the department while it searched for a permanent chief.
Officials have been unable to explain why they didn’t launch the search for another 11 months, instead waiting until Andren retired again and the department was left without a chief.
Andren gave two weeks’ notice July 12, about two months before his contract was to expire.
His only explanation came in a department-wide email as he neared the end of his one-year contract: “I have decided I would rather not work full-time.”
Commissioners asked a lawyer to research whether bringing Andren back as a part-time chief would affect his pension.
They ultimately decided to launch a new search for chief with an eight-person committee.
A review of applicants could start by Oct. 2 with a job offer made by late December, according to a department timeline of the process.
The new chief could start work by mid-January.
Pierce said he will not be applying for the job.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653