Two finalists to vie for Grand Rapids fire chief

Published on March 23, 2023

Dr. Brad Brown, Grand Rapids Fire Department (L), and Eloy Vega, Port Neches Fire Department

Candidate forum set for March 29 

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Two experienced fire service professionals are being considered for hire as Grand Rapids’ next fire chief. Dr. Brad Brown, deputy chief of support services for the Grand Rapids Fire Department, and Eloy Vega, fire chief and emergency management coordinator for the City of Port Neches and former Fire District Chief of Laredo, Texas, are the top two fire chief candidates following a nationwide recruitment.

Each will participate in a series of interviews with City and community stakeholders next week, culminating in a Wednesday, March 29 Fire Chief Candidate Forum. The City and its hired executive search firm, GovHR, will host a 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. question and answer forum in the 9th Floor City Commission Chambers in City Hall, 300 Monroe Ave. NW.  It will also be cablecast on Comcast Channel 26 and streamed live on the City’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

Dr. Brad Brown, Grand Rapids Fire Department

Dr. Brad Brown currently serves as the deputy chief of support services for the Grand Rapids Fire Department. A 27-year veteran of the fire service who began his career in Greensboro, NC, Chief Brown has been with the City of Grand Rapids for 20 years in various capacities including: firefighter, acting equipment operator, acting officer, lieutenant-planning, captain-planning, assistant chief-administration, and fills in as acting fire chief on a frequent basis.  Brown oversees the $36 million budget, purchasing, planning division, fleet and facilities, administrative staff, fire prevention division, and facilitates the hiring and promotion of GRFD employees. Chief Brown serves as a peer assessor for the Center for Public Safety Excellence and as an instructor for Eastern Michigan University’s school of staff and command where he instructs on strategic planning, financial management and problem solving. Brown has earned an Associate’s Degree in Fire Protection Technology from Guilford Technical Community College, an Associate’s Degree in Fire Prevention and Investigation from Delta College, a Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a major in Fire Service Management from Northwood University, a Master’s degree in Executive Fire Leadership from Grand Canyon University, and a Doctorate in Education from Cornerstone University in Organizational Leadership and Development.

Eloy Vega, Port Neches Fire Department

Chief Eloy Vega has served communities as a first responder for over 23 years, leading teams and engaging a diverse community. He is the current fire chief and emergency management coordinator for the City of Port Neches, Texas. Vega’s career began with the Laredo Fire Department in 1999, serving in various capacities before being promoted to fire district chief, with an operating budget of just over $57 million. He served in various positions there, including fire suppression district chief, fire training district chief, and fire prevention and arson district chief. While assigned to the Fire Administration Division, Vega was the special projects coordinator, strategic planner and public information officer. Vega earned an Associate’s Degree of Applied Science in Fire Protection from Kilgore College, a Bachelor’s Degree of Applied Arts and Sciences from Texas A&M International University, a Master’s Degree in Public Administration in Disaster & Emergency Management from Sam Houston State University and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Oklahoma State University in Fire and Emergency Management Administration.

During Wednesday’s public forum, the two fire chief candidates will provide brief remarks and answer questions provided from the community. Those questions may be asked in-person at the event, via the livestream chat on Facebook, or submitted in advance by completing the
Grand Rapids Community Forum Electronic Question Form by 5 p.m. Monday, March 27. Those without internet access can submit their questions in advance via 311 or 616-456-3000. Spanish-language interpretation services will be provided during the forum.

Once the public has a chance to watch and listen to what the fire chief candidates have to say at the forum, Washington wants to know what they think of each candidate via a web survey. The survey will go live following the forum and be available for comment through 5 p.m. Friday, March 31. Those without internet access will be able to participate in the survey via 311 or 616-456-3000.

The nationwide recruitment for Grand Rapids’ next fire chief began in January following Fire Chief John Lehman’s retirement announcement. Input from community stakeholders informed the final recruitment profile. Following the March 1 application deadline, GovHR screened individuals who best matched the profile and desired characteristics articulated by the community. GovHR worked with Washington to further examine the candidates that would advance and appear at the forum.


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