After receiving 32 applications for a new Janesville fire chief, the police and fire commission is ready to narrow the pool to an undetermined number of finalists.

The commission will hold a mostly closed session meeting Thursday to do just that. It will also consider partnering with GovHR to help review and test the finalists before the commission hires someone.

Randy Banker will remain Janesville’s fire chief until his retirement, scheduled for Jan. 11. Once he leaves, Deputy Fire Chief Jim Ponkauskas will serve as interim chief.

Commission members advocated at their last meeting in October for an aggressive recruitment and hiring timeline to minimize the time the department would be without a permanent chief.

This week, commission Chairman DuWayne Severson said the commission was “moving forward appropriately” with the hiring process. The city's human resources department has been busy with other issues, which has slightly delayed the process.

Severson didn’t specify what those issues were, but the city was recently involved in contract disputes with its fire and police unions.

Getting the new chief up to speed on union tension and other department challenges, such as some shared services with the Milton Fire Department and the possibility of a new north-side fire station, will take time. But the new chief’s learning curve will be like any other new job, he said.

The commission does not have a target number of finalists or semifinalists, Severson said, but the plan is to narrow the field following Thursday’s meeting.

At the October meeting, the commission wanted to have the new chief begin in March. That’s still possible, but a start date might have to wait until April depending on how many candidates the commission decides to review, Severson said.

Whoever the commission chooses will have a suitable blend of education and experience.

“It’s a process, not a check box,” Severson said. “They’ve provided excellent resumes. They’ve filled out the appropriate applications with the city. That’s one step of it.”

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