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KCK swears in new fire chief with 40 years of experience in Chicago

Posted at 10:35 AM, Aug 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-27 12:48:33-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Kansas City, Kansas Fire Department has a new chief. The city clerk officially swore Mike Callahan in as fire chief Monday morning.

Callahan comes to Kansas City after working 40 years for the Chicago Fire Department. He said he had his eye on Kansas City as an option while he looked for places to apply as chief. It’s the only role in a fire department he didn't have on his resume until Monday.  

Callahan knows what challenges await him because he did his research. One priority is to replace outdated fire apparatuses and equipment while finding ways to improve the fire station buildings. 

"I come from a fire department where one of my responsibilities was fire apparatus acquisition and physical facilities. In Chicago, there are roughly 100 firehouses. Here, there are 22. I think I can spend a lot more time looking at these firehouses and working out issues that currently exist in them," Callahan said. 

Another issue is the practice of shift trading. It's where two firefighters swap shifts but still get paid as if the swap never happened because, in theory, they both should work the same amount of shifts. The former KCK mayor called the practice "corrupt" and said it cost the Unified Government of KCK and Wyandotte County nearly $1 million in one year. 

Callahan said most cities and departments struggle with the practice. He plans to keep the concept in place under some capacity. 

"It is a collective bargaining issue. It'll be looked at in the collective bargaining sessions so we can still allow shift trading, so it serves the needs of the firefighters and of the UG at the same time," he said. 

County leadership chose Callahan over internal candidates for the job. They credited his long list of strengths and experience in the industry as reasons for the hire. 

"He just checked the box every time we went along. I became more and more impressed by him the more and more I learned about him," said Doug Bach, county administrator.

Callahan's schedule is packed full of meetings on his first day.