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Search for new EMS chief still under wraps

Tuesday, December 7, 2021 by Amy Smith

As with last month’s meeting of the Public Safety Commission, Assistant City Manager Rey Arellano had little to report regarding the nationwide search for a new chief of Austin-Travis County Emergency Services.

At Monday’s commission meeting, Arellano reported there were 37 people who applied for the position to replace former EMS Chief Ernesto Rodriguez, who retired this year after 40 years of service. Arellano said he had asked for additional information regarding the first round of finalists and should have more details next week.

According to the list of 37 applicants, five EMS employees applied for the job, including interim Chief Jasper Brown and Selena Xie, president of the Austin EMS Association. Brown is expected to move forward to the next round of interviews in January. Xie told the Austin Monitor she would not be included among the finalists. She believes the consulting firm that interviewed her, Affion Public, wanted her to advance to the next stage of the process, but said for whatever reason, city management did not want her to move forward.

Xie is currently in collective bargaining talks with the city, which likely would have posed a conflict had she proceeded as a finalist. Xie was one of about four women to apply for the chief position.

Some who are following the search process would like the city to hire a candidate who embraces the ongoing work of reimagining public safety in Austin, but they are not holding out hope.

“Will you speak to the diversity of the applicant pool?” Commissioner Rebecca Webber asked. Arellano said he was not prepared to respond to the question. Webber asked about the public aspect of the hiring process and whether the community would have an opportunity to meet the finalists. Arellano said he was planning to hold an open house so that stakeholders and internal staffers would have a chance to engage with the top candidates.

Webber asked a follow-up question: “So do I understand correctly that there is no opportunity for community members to ask public questions that will be heard by other community members?” Arellano responded that there would probably be an opportunity for community engagement with the finalists, but he has not yet discussed with city staffers and the consultant how it would be structured.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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