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MAYOR WANTS D'ORAZIO AS NEW LEADER OF FIRE DEPT. <br> 'TEAM' DEPUTIES INCLUDE 2 OUTSIDERS, 1 VETERAN

The deputy who has headed the Fire Department on an interim basis for the last 10 months would be given the job of commissioner permanently under a proposal that Mayor Anthony M. Masiello is announcing today.

Masiello christens it "Team Fire," a leadership lineup that would make Michael L. D'Orazio the permanent commissioner. Two outsiders and one department veteran would become deputy commissioners in charge of three new units. Masiello said he is confident the Common Council will confirm D'Orazio's nomination. The three deputies do not require confirmation by lawmakers.

The mayor has been under pressure from the state financial control board and Council members to name a new commissioner. D'Orazio has been interim commissioner since Calvin G. Worthy stepped down last December in protest of planned layoffs.

Masiello also has faced pressure from some control board members to pick a commissioner from outside the department. Some have argued that a "change agent" is needed to implement a downsizing that will include cutting about 125 firefighters through attrition and likely layoffs. The overhaul also will include closing some firehouses and building new ones in more central locations.

A national search produced a list of 28 candidates, most of them from outside the region. Masiello interviewed about a dozen individuals from inside and outside the department.

"I didn't see in any one person everything I was looking for in a commissioner," he said. "But in these four people, I see the combination of talents, skills and experience that we need to implement the changes . . . We need a team approach to make this work."

Masiello was expected to make the following appointments in an 11:30 a.m. news conference:

David C. James, who previously headed several divisions in Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department in Florida, will become deputy commissioner for emergency medical services.

J. Gregory Love, a former executive deputy fire commissioner in Detroit, will become deputy for field operations.

Garnell W. Whitfield, a 20-year veteran of the department who is currently chief fire administrator, will be promoted to deputy for support services.

All three appointees are African-American, and officials think that it will be the first time in city history that all deputy fire commissioners will be minorities. The deputies will each make $89,372.

In May, a search committee made up of citizens and city officials narrowed a field of prospective candidates for commissioner to three finalists. Love was the only one of Masiello's appointees who was on the shortlist.

The panel did not recommend D'Orazio or any other current Fire Department employee for the job of commissioner.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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