Fire chief drafts succession plan

Fire chief Mike Harris.

Orcas fire chief Mike Harris has decided that it may be time to begin the process of moving on.

“The fire department has never had a point in time when the old chief was still around when the new chief got here, so they could transition in a way that the new chief knew the issues the fire department have before them,” said Harris.

With his wife Vicki Christiansen working a new job in Alexandria, Va., Harris has been asked to begin drafting a succession plan by the board of fire commissioners.

Harris says he wants the process to be carefully planned and executed, and he plans to stick around long enough to transmit key information to his successor.

While Christiansen has worked on the East Coast since mid-2010, her new position doesn’t provide for frequent travel to the West Coast as the last job did.

Harris was appointed in September of 2004. Now that the new Deer Harbor fire station is nearing completion, Harris said his promise to commissioners to see it through has been fulfilled.

“In all likelihood, the commissioners will review Chief Harris’ proposal … on July 12,” said commissioner Barbara Bedell. Harris expects the search and transition to a new chief to last over six months.

While Harris’ contract specifies certain dates by which he is expected to give official notice, “I’m going as soon as I’m done with these things and we agree,” he said, whether that happens to fall on one of the predetermined dates or not.

The couple also plans on keeping their home on Orcas.

“We’re definitely gonna be islanders,” he said, “but [Vicki] lives on the East Coast now.” As Director of Legislative Affairs for the US Forest Service, “she’s in the national spotlight.”