BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Joshua Hartbarger has swapped his fire department uniform for a button-down shirt – at least during the day.
Hartbarger, who has served as Whitehouse fire chief since 2016, was named chief operations officer for the village during the April 5 council meeting.
“I still plan to continue to serve as a volunteer firefighter,” Hartbarger said.
Deputy Chief Jason Francis, who joined the department as a volunteer in 2012, will be nominated by Mayor Don Atkinson to serve as acting fire chief during the Tuesday, April 18 meeting.
As COO, Hartbarger will oversee the operations and activities of all the departments, handle municipal matters for the village at large and represent the village with businesses and civic organizations.
“I will work with the department heads, who are the experts, but I’ll provide additional support,” Hartbarger explained, offering an example of one project he’s involved in already: a 500,000-gallon water storage facility currently in engineering.
“It’s not to reduce the role of each of the department heads but to provide additional help and work on other large projects,” he said.
Whitehouse began discussing ways to streamline its organizational structure in anticipation of achieving city status after the 2020 U.S. Census. While the official count fell short of the 5,000-resident threshold to become a city, the population – and the need for services – is certainly above those levels now, said administrator Jordan Daugherty.
“The organizational shift is first meant to make us more efficient and effective by putting people in the right roles and making sure the job description and responsibilities for those roles are right,” Daugherty said. “This is a product of years of thinking about what is the best government structure for our residents. We will continue to do better work with fewer people, but we had to be reorganized.”
The changes will not result in any gain in the number of employees or increase in payroll, he added.
With county changes to the Advanced Life Support system, Whitehouse expects to see its funding decreased. The vacancy left by the retirement of paramedic Cheryl Marty last month and another planned retirement next year will not be filled in the fire department. Francis’ role of deputy chief will also not be filled, just as Allan Baer’s position wasn’t replaced when he was promoted to fill former Chief Mark McDonough’s position. Daugherty has also served in two roles for nearly 15 years: Hired in 2007 as finance director, he kept that position when he became administrator in 2010.
Because Hartbarger will be assisting several departments, his salary will be spread out across multiple funds, not just the General Fund, Daugherty said.
Hartbarger joined the Whitehouse Fire Depart-ment in 2001 as a volunteer firefighter/paramedic and became full-time lieutenant/fire inspector in 2006 and deputy chief in 2013. In 2016, he was named chief.
During his tenure as chief, Hartbarger worked with Waterville Fire Chief Doug Meyer to form the Waterville, Waterville Township and Whitehouse Fire Co-Op, solving issues that plagued both departments by creating a model of shared training, staffing and equipment. It’s a model that earned both chiefs the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association Innovation Award last year – one that is now being considered by other Ohio communities.
As chief, Hartbarger has also served as president of the Northwest Ohio Fire Chiefs Association and is a member of the Regional Council of Governments board of directors.
A paramedic, firefighter and certified trainer, Hartbarger earned his master’s degree in public health last year. He is married to Nikki, and they have two daughters.