The Grand Island City Council meeting Tuesday night was the most uneventful day in a week filled with drama for the city. But just because Grand Island now has a new fire chief, doesn't necessarily mean smooth sailing from here on out.
Cory Schmidt is the newest member of the city's ranks. The 16 year veteran of Grand Island's Fire Department was approved unanimously on Tuesday night, but he'll be starting his tenure in a wave of turmoil.
"I am very happy to see this very contentious matter settled and put to bed," said Councilman John Gericke about the fire chief appointment. Contentious might be an understatement. After a year without a fire chief, a lawsuit and two interims, Cory Schmidt was nominated on Tuesday by the one person who is blamed for much of the drama -- Mayor Jay Vavricek.
"Any job is going to have supervisory positions above them and fire chief is no different," said Schmidt, when asked about past problems plaguing future interactions. "We just have to keep working as a team going forward and trying to do what's best for the city and also for the fire department."
But, what's best for the fire department and the rest of the city is currently being called into question.
"I am really tired of all the controversy," said Councilwoman Linna Dee Donaldson. "We need to move forward, the issues we're dealing with now have gone on too long. Decisions made have been very hard on the city."
One of the biggest issues on everyone's mind came to a head last week. Vavricek on Friday announced Mary Lou Brown would be returning to her position. That decision prompted Councilmen Niemann and Gericke to sign on the dotted line.
"Everyone I've heard from would like to see it go to a vote of the citizens," said Gericke. "When I ran for council the first time, I said I would listen to my constituents and do what the people wanted," he said, which included himself.
"It matched my own feelings as well," said Gericke.
A recall campaign of his commander-in-chief is not all Cory will be facing when he takes his position on October 1. He'll be starting with a budget cut by $400,000, fire stations in need of improvements and the deficit of equipment. If that list wasn't long enough, tack on a department of weary fire fighters seeking a sense of stability.
"They're looking for that one person to get them on track and keep them moving forward," said Schmidt. After a year, it seems they can stop searching. Cory Schmidt is not only becoming a leader for the department, but could also perhaps serve as an olive branch between the council and mayor.
"He's had a lot of local experience with our community, experience with our department, experience with our equipment, I think Cory will do a good job," said Gericke.
"I strongly recommend council consideration for Cory Schmidt as fire chief going forward," said Mayor Jay Vavricek.
Absent from Tuesday's meeting were Council President Peg Gilbert, Mary Lou Brown, in addition to Councilmen Haase and Niemann. The recall campaign of Vavricek has been suspended until Saturday morning at the request of Jeb Wolsleben. Wolsleben notified media his father passed away on Monday. There currently are no updates on Mary Lou Brown's post surgery status or when she's expected to return.