EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)-- There's a new leader behind the Eau Claire Fire Department. Chris Bell was sworn in as fire chief Thursday at a small ceremony at Fire Station 2.
Bell is a 19 year veteran of the fire department. He takes over for Chief Lyle Koerner who is retiring after 33 years of service in the City of Eau Claire.
For Koerner, it’s time to retire, relax and enjoy family time.
“Over the last 33 plus years, the citizens have been great and the city has treated me fantastic,” Koerner explained. “It’s time for me to take a little time to myself and spend time with my family.”
Koerner joins a growing number of city employees retiring from their positions. In fact, the city says between 2011 and the year 2021 it anticipates a 60% turnover in its workforce largely due to retiring workers.
City Manager Dale Peters says losing seasoned employees like Chief Koerner is tough. He says with many city employees working for more than 15 years at the organization, finding the right fit to replace those retirees isn't simple.
“The retirements create opportunity but it also creates challenges with retaining institutional knowledge,” Peters explained.
Peters says as the baby boomer generation inches closer to retirement, finding qualified replacements can take time in any career path. He says public service isn't as popular of a career path as it used to be which makes hiring even more of a challenge.
“The talent pool is growing tighter. It’s becoming more challenging to find qualified individuals,” he added.
The city says it’s always looking at promoting from within and attracting young talent to the workforce.
And they're hoping a combination of all the new development downtown and paid internship opportunities will help.
“Public service careers are rewarding and fulfilling and we would encourage young people to look into public service,” Peters said.