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Moorhead picks Twin Cities man as new fire chief

The head of the St.

The head of the St. Anthony (Minn.) Fire Department will be Moorhead's next fire chief.

Joel Hewitt, a 28-year firefighting veteran in Twin Cities departments, beat two other candidates to earn the recommendation of City Manager Bruce Messelt and the unanimous approval of the Moorhead City Council Monday.

Hewitt, 50, will take over this summer, replacing Marty Soeth, who retired in January after nearly 42 years with the department.

Other finalists for the job were Acting Moorhead Fire Chief Joe Gaughan, a 19-year veteran of the department; and John Thomsen, acting battalion chief in Kenosha, Wis.

Gaughan will return to his position as assistant chief in charge of training when Hewitt arrives.


Hewitt said Monday night from his home in Roseville, Minn., that he's excited about the opportunity.

"I think it's a great opportunity to move up, to be part of the vitality of a growing community like Moorhead," he said.

Hewitt was chosen after a review process that included reviews by two panels -- one made up of residents and City Council members, the other made up of local city officials.

Both recommended Hewitt as their first choice, though a group of firefighters also involved recommended Gaughan, Messelt said.

For Mayor Mark Voxland, who served on the resident panel, Hewitt's strength is his leadership experience. He has served as a full-time fire chief since 1996, while neither of the other two candidates had handled that position.

"I was impressed with his length of service being an administrator, and that was kind of what tipped the balance," Voxland said.

Though Hewitt's salary has not yet been settled, the range for the position is $58,712 to $77,139, plus benefits, said Jean Thompson, director of human resources for the city.

Hewitt has been a firefighter since 1976. Besides being fire chief in St. Anthony, he also is a district chief in Roseville. He worked as an insurance agent and carpenter before becoming the Maplewood, Minn., fire chief in 1996.


The review panels recommended Gaughan as a close second after Hewitt, Messelt said. The Moorhead veteran could be a strong candidate the next time the city needs to look for a chief, he added.

Gaughan said he would consider applying again, if the position reopened. But for now, working with Hewitt shouldn't be difficult, he said.

"With the short time I've met him, he seems to be a sincere gentleman -- I think he'll be easy to work with," Gaughan said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Joy Anderson at (701) 241-5556

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