A new Fire Chief with 40 years of experience in Wisconsin and Arizona has been hired by the city of Ocean Shores, Mayor Crystal Dingler announced on Monday.
David Bathke will assume command of the Ocean Shores Fire Department later this month, Dingler said.
Bathke started his career in 1977 as a Fire Explorer in New Berlin, WI.
“His career has progressed through the ranks in Wisconsin as a firefighter, paramedic, lieutenant, captain, training officer, battalion chief, and fire chief: Serving the city of West Bend, city of Wauwatosa, town of Lisbon, and Ripon Area Fire District,” a news release said.
Bathke spent the past 4½ years as Battalion Chief and Fire Chief of the Hellsgate Fire District in Star Valley, AZ, and a Regional Director for the Arizona Fire Chiefs Association.
He also holds a Master’s Degree in Management, a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration, and an Associate Degree in Fire Science, and is currently a Nationally Registered Paramedic. He is a past IAFF firefighter’s local union president and executive board member, as well as a past adjunct fire and EMS instructor coordinator at Waukesha County Technical College.
“We are delighted that David Bathke will take the lead as our new Fire Chief. His expertise and leadership experience will add greatly to our existing talented Ocean Shores’ Fire staff, and provide expanded vision and perspective as we move into the future,” Dingler said.
His annual salary will be $100,527, and Dingler said she expects to introduce Bathke during the first City Council meeting in July.
Bathke takes over a department that has several priority concerns, most specifically with staffing levels.
In 2016, the news release notes, the Fire Department created a full-time Fire Inspector position and added seven new firefighter/EMS positions under a two-year SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) grant. The FEMA-based grants are intended to provide funding directly to understaffed fire departments “to help them increase the number of trained, ‘front line’ firefighters available in their communities”. The Fire Department had 2,254 fire and EMS incidents in 2016, up 6.1% from 2015, with 28% of the calls doubling, tripling and even quadrupling with other calls, requiring call-outs for help to off-duty staff and volunteers, as well as other fire stations.
“The City conducted an extensive search to fill its vacant fire chief position, seeking a dynamic and visionary leader in the fire service, with a passion for public safety who would be energized by Ocean Shores Fire Department’s fast pace and the diversity of service demands,” Dingler said in the news release.
His most recent job was marked by an internal investigation in April and a budget controversy surrounding providing ambulance service and cost overruns for a new station in the Hellsgate (AZ) Fire Department, according to a story in the Payson Roundup.
Dingler acknowledged she had seen online reports of the Hellsgate situation: “We certainly have done our research on him and we feel that he is absolutely the person we want, and that he is the right person.”
In the Ripon (AZ) Commonwealth Press in October 2012, Publisher Tim Lyke wrote an editorial about Bathke’s depature from his previous position.
“The good news is that, while serving as Ripon’s fire chief, David Bathke began moving the Ripon Area Fire District (RAFD) aggressively into the future. … Bathke recruited new members, raising the ranks from 32 closer to the 42 authorized by the fire district board. He quickly demonstrated his competence, both operationally and in terms of firefighters’ professional development. He turned the local firehouse into a regional training center, bringing thousands of dollars to the community while providing local firefighters with $2,400 in free training.
“His winning personality and administrative competence commanded the respect of his firefighters and his lieutenants, who came to value his knowledge, experience and ability to train and motivate. He was open and responsive to the fire district board, to the public and to the media. Indeed, Bathke’s tenure in Ripon was marked by improvement, advancement and even, in a good way, excitement.
“The bad news, of course, is that he was in Ripon fewer than 10 months before he accepted another position. That’s less than the time it took the RAFD to find, recruit and hire him.”
Bathke takes over after the abrupt departure last year of former Ocean Shores Fire Chief Tom Lique, who was hired in June 2014 but resigned after he was first placed on administrative leave due to a lengthy medical absence.