Janesville56.9°

Jensen picked as Janesville fire chief

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
September 22, 2010
— The Janesville Fire Department’s staff of 94 will be under a new style of leadership in 2011 when a new chief takes over.

The police and fire commission, in a unanimous decision, offered the job Tuesday to Deputy Chief Jim Jensen, 56, Orfordville.


Jensen accepted the position Wednesday afternoon, said Susan Musick, the city’s human resources director. His start date, starting salary and other particulars still must be finalized, she said.


Jensen replaces Larry Grorud, the city’s longest-serving fire chief who is retiring after nearly 37 years.


Jensen was pleased with the job offer.


“I really appreciate the opportunity the police and fire commission has given me to lead this dedicated group of people. I’m really honored to have been selected and know they had a very qualified group to choose from,” he said.


Jensen’s salary is expected to be between $95,000 and $113,964, according to information released when the chief’s job was advertised.


New leadership style

Even though Jensen and Grorud have different personality styles, Jensen said they worked well together.


“I’ve learned a great deal from him. I think I have complemented him well, and he’s taught me a great deal,’’ Jensen said.


The two, however, are different in their leadership style, he said.


“Sometimes this position requires you to be autocratic, and there are other times when that isn’t very effective nowadays. I tend to me more into building relationships with people and getting people involved in the organization, and the chief has been an advocate of that, also. That will certainly continue,” Jensen said.


Jensen has no plans to make drastic changes.


“We have a great working relationship with our firefighters union and are working very well within our city administration. There’s a lot of good things happening here,” he said.


Challenges ahead

That doesn’t mean Jensen won’t deal with some burning issues.


“There are some very challenging issues ahead that will require us to make very difficult decisions, and some of those are staring us right in the face at budget time.


“We need to figure out how to balance this budget,’’ said Jensen, who stressed he would work hard to keep costs down while continuing to provide quality services.


Ideas for the future

Jensen also knows it will be important for him and the department to look beyond today’s issues and into the future.


“I wouldn’t be a worthy selection if I didn’t have some thought on how to take the organization to the next level,’’ he said.


“I need to sit down with the city manager and discuss some things with him … I do have some ideas on strategic planning, including the possibility of looking at accreditation for the department,’’ he said.


That process, Jensen said, looks at all facets of the department and everything from staff and station selection to training policies and procedures.


“It really brings everything together and just elevates and ensures the organization is doing business properly,’’ he said.


The accreditation process is not easy, and there are costs, Jensen warned.


Another big challenge is that more than half of the department’s officers and command staff will retire or become eligible to retire within three years.


“We’ve done some succession planning, but we need to continue to do that, and our officer development training needs to continue and expand,’’ he said.


Jensen said he will encourage more officers to mentor officer candidates so the department is prepared to fill all positions.


“It’s something we’re definitely aware of,’’ he said.


Background

Jensen beat out five other finalists, including two from within the department.


He has been with the department for 22 years and has a bachelor’s degree from Upper Iowa University. He also was chief of the Orfordville Fire District, where he grew up and was involved in the fire department from 1993-99.


Along with Chairman Jose Carrillo, commission members are Larry Barton, secretary; Leslie Brunsell, past chair; Devan Dutra and William Schneider.


Outgoing Chief Grorud had this to say about Jensen’s hiring.


“I think Jim’s experience and demeanor is probably what pushed him to the top. He’s levelheaded and straightforward. You always know where he’s coming from, which is probably one of his greatest strengths.’’



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