Green Bay Police & Fire Commission close to naming new fire chief
By Daniel Kramer
GREEN BAY – Back in June, Green Bay Metro Fire Chief David Litton announced he would retire after almost 10 years as Green Bay’s chief and 40 years of firefighting.
In 2015, under Litton’s watch, Green Bay was the first city in Wisconsin to achieve a Class 1 Public Protection Rating from the Insurance Services Office.
Litton, who served as president of the Wisconsin Fire Chiefs Association, also oversaw the merger of the Green Bay, Allouez and Bellevue fire departments.
In early November, Assistant Chief Robert Goplin of the Green Bay Metro Fire Department and Division Chief Matthew Knott from the Rockford Illinois Fire Department were named as finalists to replace Litton.
Police & Fire Commission President Rod Goldhahn said the Commission began the process with a nationwide search.
“And that’s typically what we do when we look for a new chief even if we have internal candidates,” Goldhahn said. “We do that because it does two things: one, it gives you more options around getting the absolute best candidate you can. And then secondly, even if the internal candidate is the one you choose, that person knows that they went up against every other candidate in the country and came out on top so that helps provide them with an added sense of confidence.
“We’re really looking for the full complement of the person but the specific areas that we did want to look at were… candidates that came from large departments,” he said. “It’s a unique environment. Most candidates from this area have worked in union environments, but that’s not the case all over the country. So that was something that was important. That they had negotiated contracts and dealt with particular issues that a union environment may present. That they’ve dealt with budgeting in fairly tight economic times. Their personnel issues and how well they’ve worked through things of that nature. What kind of improvements they’ve done, whether it be just new ideas, new technologies or anything like that. We just want to make sure that they’re keeping up with what’s happening now and in the fire services.”
From the nationwide search, the commission ended up with 25 candidates which were narrowed down to 10.
After a round of zoom interviews, the commission chose two finalists.
“And we had the face-to-face interviews with those two candidates here in Green Bay and along with tours of the stations for both,” Goldhahn said. “We’re in the process now of doing background evaluations on the candidates and hope to make a decision, hopefully, if not by the end of this week, by sometime early next week.”
Goplin began his firefighting career in 1993 and was hired by the Green Bay Fire Department in 1997.
He has served in numerous roles since then, including firefighter, division chief of fire training, assistant chief of operations, battalion chief and fire chief.
In 2016, Goplin again assumed the assistant chief of operations position.
He holds a master’s degree in homeland security, a bachelor’s in fire and emergency response management and an associate of applied science degree in fire protection.
He is also a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program.
Knott is the Rockford division chief of administration and fire prevention. He was appointed division chief in 2009 and is responsible for planning, budgeting and administrative functions.
He is also responsible for fire investigations, code enforcement and all community risk reductions efforts.
Knott has a bachelor’s degree in geology and a master’s in safety from Northern Illinois University.
He was certified by the International Association of Emergency Managers as an emergency manager.
Knott also holds designations as a chief fire officer, chief EMS officer and fire marshal from the Center for Public Safety Excellence.
Green Bay Area Fire Fighters Local 141 President Ryan Hintz, (of the Local 141 strike) of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said he’s going to miss Chief Litton but is excited and open to either candidate.
“Having known Chief Goplin for well over 15 years, as he rose through the ranks,” he said. “I was lucky enough to have him actually as my Battalion Chief so I know the type of chief he is and the type of person he is. And I’m excited to see him to this finalist position.”
Hintz went on to say that the city of Green Bay brought the union in as part of the interview process to let them meet Knott.
“It’s definitely exciting to see the type of person he was and the department that he came from,” Hintz said. “We look at Rockford and Green Bay and there’s a lot of similarities there. So you could understand that he kind of saw the same thing that we see.
“So when it comes down to both candidates, I think that the City of Green Bay is going to be lucky with whichever candidate that they get. And that’s something that the Police and Fire Commission will be deciding soon. And you know, we look forward to working with whoever that person is and continuing to make the Green Bay Metro Fire Department the great department that we are.”