Lansing Mayor & Former Fire Chief Clash Over Leadership & Diversity
In a strongly worded press release, Lansing mayor Andy Schor addressed several points made in an open letter by former fire chief Randy Talifarro regarding the mayor's leadership and racial diversity within the department.
In an open letter published by the Lansing State Journal, former Chief Talifarro said he resigned from the Lansing fire department because of a "lack of trust" once Andy Schor became the city's mayor. He also said the mayor did not consult him in the mayor's first six months on the job. While praising mayor's diversity commission, Talifarro challenged the mayor to make the committee "make sure it serves a substantive purpose for the betterment of the community, not as an apparatus for personal political gain."
Mayor Schor took the oath of office in January of 2018. In June of 2018, he appointed David Purchase as interim fire chief. It was announced that Talifarro, who was fire chief in both Lansing and East Lansing would return to being the full-time chief in East Lansing only.
In January 2019, Mayor Schor announced Michael Mackey as Lansing's new fire chief. Mackey spent 30 years with Palm Beach Fire Rescue in Florida. The city said Mackey will officially begin his role in April.
Mayor Schor responded to former Chief Talifarro in a press release issued during the evening of Friday, March 8. The first line was personal:
The former Lansing Fire Chief has made several claims against me, and I am now going to respond to them. While I would rather take the high-road and not address the claims he made, he has disparaged me, several on my staff, and the Lansing Fire Department. I cannot let that go without a response.
Schor went on to say Talifarro's resignation was voluntary.
As for diversity, he pointed out the committee that the hiring process for Lansing Fire Chief was led by Linda Sanchez-Gazella, a Hispanic woman who is the city's human resources director. Schor said Sanchez-Gazella said there was not a "qualified minority candidate" for the fire chief role. Schor said he hired the candidate recommended to the Fire Board which was then passed on to him. Mackey is a white male.
Mayor Schor also addressed the "lack of trust" with former Chief Talifarro. Here is part of the press release:
I retained 8 department heads, didn’t retain 3 department heads, and brought in four new department heads (one in a newly created department). In the first few months of my administration I was getting to know all department heads and we all built trust. By the end of the year, I had a good understanding of each person, and I believe they understand my way of working. Talifarro submitted his resignation in May, and stayed on until July 1st. I listened to his suggestions and took some and didn’t take others. Just like everyone else. Trust was being built, but he resigned after four months.