NAPLES — Cross out the “interim” from East Naples Fire Chief Keith Teague’s title.
Commissioners from the East Naples Fire Control and Rescue District voted to appoint Interim Chief Teague to the permanent chief’s position on Tuesday night.
Teague, a 30-year veteran of the East Naples fire district, has served as interim fire chief since February after the previous chief, Doug Dyer, retired.
His short tenure as interim chief has been rocky. Teague implemented mandatory furloughs in July to combat a $4 million budget shortfall. Those furloughs create occasional brownouts at Station 22 on Bayshore Drive.
The East Naples firefighters union, which is currently in contract negotiations with the fire district, has been at odds with Teague’s handling of the budget – delivering a vote of no confidence against him earlier this month.
One public speaker spoke out against Teague at the meeting.
“What makes him qualified to make the cuts that reduces the level of public safety?” said Kimberly Ralston, an East Naples resident, who said she was frustrated with the reduction in staff caused by furloughs.
The fire board is exploring possible tax rate increases but tabled the discussion for later.
Before Teague was promoted, the commissioners first voted to strike a residency requirement from the district’s fire chief job description. The requirement, written into the district’s job description in 2008, required the chief to live in East Naples or a neighboring district.
Teague lives in Estero.
Commissioners voted 3-2 to remove the residency requirement. Commissioners Tom Cannon and Robert Boyer dissented.
They voted 4-1 to make Teague the chief. Cannon dissented on that vote asking. He said he supported Teague, but wanted to give him a few more months.
“What’s the rush?” he asked.
Teague is making approximately $126,000 annually before benefits.
The commissioners also promoted Kingman Schuldt to assistant chief. He was serving as an interim in that position.