Fire chief resigns citing conflict in management styles

Saturday, August 17, 2002

Cape Girardeau fire chief Michael W. Lackman resigned Friday after being appointed to the job a year ago.

Cape Girardeau city manager Michael Miller said Lackman is leaving because their management styles conflict.

"I am a team-manager type person, and Mike is more of a standard chain-of-command type," Miller said.

In tendering his resignation, Lackman said, "It has become evident that my management style is not a good fit for this department and organization."

He was unavailable for further comment on Friday.

His resignation is effective Aug. 30. Assistant fire chief Mark Hasheider will serve as interim chief, a role he played for six months after Cape Girardeau's previous chief, Dan White, resigned in April 2001.

Hasheider was one of four Cape Girardeau firefighters who applied for the chief's job when White resigned. He said he will put his name in again.

Lackman came to Cape Girardeau after serving 26 years with the fire department in Elk Grove Village, a Chicago suburb. He was an assistant chief there for eight years before taking the Cape Girardeau job. Going from a large department to a small one required some adjustments, Lackman conceded after taking over.

Fire Capt. Charles Brawley, former president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 1084, said Lackman tried running a smaller department with a smaller budget in a "big city way."

Last month, firefighter Larry Galloway filed suit against the city and Lackman seeking to find out his score on a promotion test. Lackman had refused to provide the score and declined to give a reason. Miller ordered Lackman to supply the score, and the suit was dismissed.

Brawley said some firefighters were frustrated over Lackman's handling of the captain's exam. In the past, they were told their scores and how they ranked. "He didn't want to do that," Brawley said.

But Lackman was fair and honest with the firefighters, the captain said. "I felt he tried hard to move our department forward as best he could."

Capt. Mark Starnes, who has been president of the firefighters association since January, said Lackman dealt with his first budget well but was more strict in handling labor issues than firefighters were accustomed.

"Personally, I wish it wouldn't have come to this," Starnes said.

He said progress made by the department has been slow over the past three or four years.

"We are looking for the person wanting to come in and take us to the next level," Starnes said.

He thinks the pay scale for the fire chief -- Lackman started at $62,500 -- has limited the number of applicants. "It does handcuff our city a little bit," he said.

Mayor Jay Knudtson disagrees that the fire chief's salary level had any bearing on the quick turnover in the job.

Lackman is the third department head to resign in the city since the end of May. The others were inspections director Tarryl Booker and Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Terri Clark-Bauer.

The exodus does not concern Knudtson.

"I'd like to think we have assessed some situations and have best dealt with them," he said.

335-6611, extension 182

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: