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Wide net is cast for Fire Dept. leader

Incident Commander Deputy Chief Joseph Fleming briefed Mayor Martin J. Walsh last month. Jay Connor for The Boston Globe/Globe photo Jay Connor

Mayor Martin J. Walsh is paying $23,500 to a Phoenix firm with a track record in Boston to launch a national search for the city’s next fire commissioner.

FACETS management consulting, retained by the city in February, is expected to provide a short list of candidates by spring.

Walsh said in a statement that he hired the firm to keep his commitment to find a permanent replacement for Roderick J. Fraser, a reform-minded commissioner who left the position in January.

Walsh said the firm has significant experience in such searches and is familiar with the Boston Fire Department. The company completed a detailed review of the department in 2010 and issued a list of recommendations to improve health and safety on the force and bring it in line with best practices and national standards.


“This process will ensure that no stone is left unturned as we seek the best possible fit for our department,” Walsh said in the statement.

The appointment of a new fire commissioner could be a test for Walsh in tricky political waters.

He is faced, on one hand, with a Fire Department that watchdogs say badly needs a leader willing to take on the union to institute tough changes.

On the other, he must appeal to a strong Boston Firefighters Local 718, which has chafed at changes and which strongly supported his campaign.

Walsh argued during the campaign that labor would listen to him because he is one of their own.

Paul Watanabe, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston who was also a cochairman of the mayor’s transition team, said that, given Walsh’s prolabor experience, the mayor is being scrutinized by prounion and nonunion forces alike and that Walsh is treading carefully with appointments of key personnel in the department.

“I do know that his stance is very clear that he believes in some kind of scrutiny . . . in the Fire Department,’’ Watanabe said.


Walsh has said the search for commissioner would include candidates from inside and outside the department. He is also weighing whether one person should serve as both commissioner and fire chief, a move critics say would be wrong for the department.

Founded in 2006, FACETS specializes in management consulting to government entities, professional trade associations, and private firms.

It has worked with the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Fire Fighters, and the National Fallen Firefighters Association.

The company said a significant part of its effort would be researching and documenting details of the fire commissioner’s role in Boston’s government, and the expectations of the mayor, city leaders, and the larger community, Kevin Roche, a FACETS partner, said in a letter to the city’s human resources director Vivian Leonard.

“FACETS will employ an approach which is inclusive, rigorous, and includes considerable stakeholder input,’’ the company wrote in its bid to the city.

The firm said its $23,500 fixed fee would cover expenses, including consultants’ labor and travel.

Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.