Saturday, June 23, 2018
News Roundup

Former Largo fire chief applies for top Seminole job

SEMINOLE — Applications to be the city's next fire chief are still rolling in, but one already stands out — from former Largo Fire Chief Mike Wallace who retired this year under fire.

Wallace, 57, retired April 1 after about six years on the job. He blamed his woes on low morale caused by financial difficulties that resulted in cutbacks, layoffs, increased workloads and a misperception that he didn't support his employees. But an internal investigation found that the majority of Largo's 54 fire employees disagreed with that conclusion. They blamed Wallace's leadership style.

Wallace, who served as assistant chief in Seminole, said he admires the department for its professionalism and family-oriented atmosphere. He also respects City Manager Frank Edmund.

"It's the only other fire department I would have considered applying for in Pinellas County," Wallace said.

Wallace said he believes his experience and knowledge would help him lead the department through the tough monetary times ahead that all departments are facing. Those money difficulties — higher pension costs transferred to employees and low or no raises — can cause low morale that a chief will have to handle, he said.

The Seminole job came open in August when George Bessler announced he would retire at the end of the month. Bessler took a job as training chief with the East Lake Fire Rescue Department.

Seminole has opened the job to a national search and has gotten applications from as far as Arizona. Applications will be accepted until the job is filled.

It's unclear when that might be. The city plans to whittle the list of applications and do at least one round of interviews before coming up with a short list of finalists.

Wallace would be a well-known quantity to Seminole officials. He began his career as an emergency medical technician with the Madeira Beach Fire Department and moved to the Largo department in 1986. He stayed there for the next 18 years, moving up through the ranks to division chief. He went to Seminole in 2004 to serve as assistant chief but returned to Largo three years later to take the top spot.

He took over a department that had been torn by controversy and strife. Things went well for Wallace at first. After six months on the job, Largo City Manager Mac Craig praised him for improving morale, among other things.

But Wallace proved to be a controversial figure, sparked in part by a determination to do what he saw as the right thing to do. He faced a barrage of criticism from his firefighters for making a jailhouse visit to former Clearwater fire Chief Jamie Geer, who was awaiting trial on accusations of years-long sexual abuse of a young girl. Wallace said he had not gone to see Geer to support him or offer help. Instead, he saw the visit as a humanitarian gesture from one human being to another.

Wallace was similarly controversial as head of the Pinellas County Fire Chiefs Association. The association, which holds one of the seats on the county's emergency medical services advisory committee, had directed him to vote against a proposal to change the way emergency medical services are handled in the county. Wallace disagreed and refused to vote as directed. Instead, he voted his beliefs and was bounced as head of the organization.

Meanwhile, his early success as Largo chief was eroding as criticism from his employees mounted. By spring, the internal investigation concluded that his final days in office were characterized by low morale among employees and significant leadership problems.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.

Comments
Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

ST. PETERSBURG — With all that's been said, tweeted, ranted and written on these pages and elsewhere about the Rays' odd, unorthodox, weird and some days downright wacky pitching plan, this might be the craziest thing yet:It's working.Like, rea...
Updated: 4 minutes ago
Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

There are many unanswered questions and discrepancies about the story of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and the March 2016 Uber ride in Arizona that has led to his upcoming three-game suspension for violating the NFL's conduct policy.The Bucs won't ...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

A t his introductory news conference after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Bucs in 2015, Jameis Winston said to judge him on his actions moving forward."Actions speak so much louder than words, or what they may have read or what they may have hear...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Besides the continual evolution of their intriguing pitching plan, the primary topics of conversation for the Rays over the next several weeks will be trades and prospects. And not mutually exclusively.Some sooner than others, the Rays are going to c...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

It's rare to see an NHL draft pick with Tampa Bay ties, but the Jets used a third-round pick Saturday on center Nathan Smith, 19, who played for Mitchell High School in Trinity and most recently for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL.Smith was ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Despite limited salary-cap room, the Lightning is among at least five teams expected to talk with Islanders All-Star center John Tavares, who can be a free agent July 1, when the courting period begins Sunday, ESPN reported.Tavares also is expected t...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Strangers are coming together to honor two killed in Bayshore crash

TAMPA — John Reisinger has seen miracles since his niece and 21-month-old grand-niece were killed while trying to cross Bayshore Boulevard 30 days ago. Some, he says, are too painful to talk about. Others he’s still trying to make sense of, such as h...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

ST. PETERSBURG — The key to SS Willy Adames rapping two of the biggest hits in the Rays' 4-0 win Saturday actually took place the night before.An RBI single that snapped an 0-for-12 and a second hit two winnings later in Friday's game restored ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Even without a first-round pick, the Lightning wrapped up its draft with seven picks Saturday, starting with Gabriel Fortier, an undersized 18-year-old forward from Quebec in the second round."They were guys that we really wanted," Lightning director...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

INF Daniel Robertson has only played two games after a short DL stint, but it seems like he has already made a half dozen great plays. Willy Adames and Jake Bauers get the attention, but Robertson has the skills to steal the show any night.It is obvi...
Updated: 1 hour ago