Pictured (l-r) are three of the four finalists for the Marathon fire chief position, Derryl O’Neal, John Johnson and Gregory Hoggatt. Not pictured is Bill Amador.

Hernstadt to choose from final four

Nearly two-dozen firefighters and paramedics heard from the final four candidates in line to be their new chief Tuesday night during Marathon’s city council meeting.

After speaking to councilmembers prior to the meeting, William Amador, John Johnson, Gregory Hoggatt Sr. and Derryl O’Neal each presented their cases to the public on why they should be chosen to head Marathon Fire Rescue.

“Mr. Manager, you have a job ahead of you,” Mayor Pete Worthington said to Roger Hernstadt, who said that he’d be reviewing the recorded interviews on the next couple of days before making a final decision some time over the weekend.

“I will be available for any input from citizens,” Hernstadt added.

Pictured (l-r) are three of the four finalists for the Marathon fire chief position, Derryl O’Neal, John Johnson and Gregory Hoggatt. Not pictured is Bill Amador.

In September, Marathon opted not to renew their agreement with Islamorada to share a fire chief. They must now find a qualified candidate with ample emergency management experience as well as institutional knowledge to help reduce the city’s Public Protection Classification (PPC) rating as determined by the Insurance Services Office (ISO). Marathon’s rating is currently 5/9 on a scale of 1 to 10, and lower ratings mean better rates assessed for property insurance.

Gregory Hoggatt, currently the deputy chief in Orlando, said he worked diligently to improve his city’s rating from a 2 to 1.

“I have the knowledge and contacts to help improve Marathon’s rating,” Hoggatt said, adding that following severe budget cuts in 2010, he successfully secured grant funding to maintain 46 personnel scheduled to be laid off.

“I’m 50 years old with nearly 23 years on the job,” Hoggatt continued. “I can give you another 15 years of service. My wife and I are looking to be here in the long run, to be permanent members of this community.”

John Johnson said that after retiring from the deputy chief post in Boca Raton, he’s anxious to get back in the game.

“I retired thinking I could relax. I can’t. I love fire service,” Johnson told the council.

A professional firefighter for over 30 years who got his start in Cape May, NJ, Johnson and his wife of 27 years have three grown children, one who’s continued in his father’s footsteps as a firefighter.

Derryl O’Neal began his career in Public Safety and Emergency Services in Pasco County in 1979. He’s progressed through the ranks and is the fire chief for the cities of both Minneola and Madeira Beach.

Bill Amador was the first candidate to speak. He started as a volunteer and has amassed 20 years in the business as well as three associate degrees in fire science, emergency medical service and nursing as well as a bachelor’s degree in public management.

“I’ve been in every position from entry level to chief and possess the experience and knowledge the city’s looking for,” Amador told the council. “I’ve built several stations and the department I work for maintained a Class 2 ISO rating for two years.”

Hernstadt told The Weekly in an email that after speaking to each of the candidates via Skype, he anticipates announcing the new chief next week.

In other news:

• The council heard the first reading, and plenty of public comment, on a proposed ordinance amendment that would restrict a mobile food vending cart from spending more than two hours at any location.

Steve Ferrisse had previously applied for a permit to operate a mobile food cart in front of Paradise Water Ice on 107th Street. Ferrisse, a special education teacher, said he and his wife intended to operate the cart to supplement their income until their retirement when they could dedicate the time necessary to operating a restaurant.

Richard Mangel, also a teacher, said that in working with Ferrisse, the pair had worked diligently to meet all the city’s requests.

“During a meeting with Roger (Hernstadt) in June, we got two firm handshakes that our mobile vending license would be available for us to pick up,” Mangel alleged, adding that he wasn’t impeding on anyone’s business and had responded, when called at the last minute, to serve Italian water ice at both Relay for Life and Sombrero Beach Dragonboat races.

Both councilmembers and the public contended that perhaps two hours was not enough time to allow cart operators to set up and break down.

“This is not a science, but something we recommend to you as a starting point,” Hernstadt told the council. “If something’s not working well, it can always come back to you.”


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