Local government

Benson in line to take over as new Ontario Fire & Rescue chief

ONTARIO – Ontario is on the verge of hiring a new fire chief from within its own ranks.

City officials on Wednesday, Oct. 19, tentatively offered the job to Clint Benson, longtime firefighter and emergency medical technician. He would step into the position now held by Terry Leighton.

Leighton earlier this year announced he planned to retire.

 “We think he is the best man for the job,” said Leighton.

The offer is tentative pending Benson passes a background check and a drug test.

“I am honored. I am excited and motivated to do a good job for residents and for the department,” said Benson.

Benson began as a part-time employee for Ontario Fire & Rescue in 2011 and became a full-time firefighter in 2014.

Benson said he is just about finished with a bachelor’s of arts degree in fire service administration at Eastern Oregon University.

“I am kind of numb right now. It is just kind of surreal. It’s been a long process but I think things are working out good,” said Benson.

Benson said he applied to become the chief after he received encouragement from fellow firefighters.

“What gave me a lot of confidence to apply was the amount of support I got from guys who had been here a lot longer than me,” he said.

Leighton said originally five individuals from across the nation applied for the chief’s position.

“The city HR (human resources) director and myself reviewed all of the applications and then we had a virtual interview with everyone except for the local one. He (Benson) did his in person because the others were out of state,” said Leighton.

After the virtual interviews Leighton said the field was narrowed to three applicants.

“We selected the one in house who we think will do a good job,” said Leighton.

If Benson passes a background check and drug test there will be an official badge-pinning ceremony. The background check and the results from the drug test should be available by the end of next week, said Leighton.

Leighton said he plans to say on the job until the end of the month and then will be available to help Benson into the future.

“I think it is a great thing and he will be able to take this department into the future. It will be in good hands,” said Leighton.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at pat@malheurenterprise.com

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