Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) has launched a national search for a new fire chief and plans to fill the position by Labor Day, officials said this week.

An organization of volunteer firefighters is objecting to the brevity of the search, saying that it isn't enough time to find a qualified candidate from outside the department.

In addition, two Montgomery County Council members said Tuesday that they object to the search, saying it is unnecessary because the best candidate already works for the county: Thomas W. Carr Jr., who is chief of the county's career firefighters.

Last month, the county began advertising in several national trade publications and has posted the position on its Web site.

The new fire chief will oversee career and volunteer firefighters -- a responsibility that is new in Montgomery, which has always split power among 19 volunteer chiefs, a career chief and a fire and rescue commission.

The position was created by legislation passed unanimously by the council in May. The bill was heavily amended before it passed and went through an unusually arduous revision process. Volunteers initially objected to the legislation because they said it would diminish their power.

The new fire chief will have unprecedented power to shape the county's fire and rescue services.

Mike Weiner, president of the Community Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, a group representing volunteer firefighters, said he would prefer a fire chief with no experience in Montgomery's system.

"A fresh face with a different point of view, someone who comes in without any preconceived notions . . . is going to be essential to the success" of the new position, Weiner said.

Council members Michael L. Subin (D-At Large) and Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) said they believe Carr is the best choice.

"We have in Montgomery County somebody who is internationally renowned as an extraordinary firefighter, rescuer, trainer, teacher, leader," Subin said. "We don't need to be spending $50,000 to go looking for anybody else. . . . We're going to end up with Tom Carr, so let's just start with Tom Carr."

Clothes-Minded at B-CC

There's nothing like a bared belly -- or a bared-belly ban -- to get parents hopping.

Last week, the outgoing principal at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Katy Harvey, sent home a letter saying a discipline committee decided to implement a dress code. It's similar to those at many schools: no exposed midriffs, no spaghetti straps, no panties or boxers peeking above waistlines.

The letter set a chain of e-mails in motion on the school's listserv about how the decision was made, whether stores sell modest clothing anymore and whether the rules are fair.

"Hopefully this year the BCC girls won't look like they just finished a shift at the local [strip] bar," one mother wrote.

"Such generalizations are crude and unfounded. . . . I think you owe a large majority of B-CC girls an apology," was one woman's response.

"Don't hold your breath," came the retort.

Goodwin Moving Up

It's been nearly 30 years since anybody other than Jerry Marco sat in the principal's chair at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda. Now that Marco is retiring, Alan Goodwin, principal for the past year at nearby Thomas W. Pyle Middle School, is taking over.

Goodwin was assistant principal at Whitman for four years before filling in at Pyle. Before that, he taught English in middle schools and high schools throughout the county, according to the Pyle Web site.

In a letter to the Pyle community, Goodwin wrote Tuesday about his mixed emotions. "While I appreciate the confidence in me this appointment conveys," he wrote, "and although I am excited about my new responsibilities, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Pyle and will miss the students, staff, and parents."

Porter Promoted

No longer will you see Brian J. Porter on television justifying decisions to close schools for rain or snow, or at least a forecast of snow.

After 19 years as the Montgomery County public schools' director of communications -- or spokesman -- Porter has been promoted to chief of staff.

He replaces Frieda K. Lacey, who became deputy superintendent. The new director of communications is Aggie Alvez, former director of special projects in Superintendent Jerry D. Weast's office.

Unlike the previous chief of staff, Porter will not oversee the departments of special education and shared accountability. "The role for my office will be a more traditional chief of staff, assisting the superintendent," he said Tuesday. He will continue to provide some media relations support.

O'Neill Reassumes Post

It took a record 22 votes Tuesday for the Board of Education to choose its new vice president.

In the morning, the board was divided 4 to 4 between Charles Haughey (At Large) and former president Patricia O'Neill (Bethesda-Chevy Chase). When voting resumed in the afternoon, ballots kept coming in evenly split, even when Kermit V. Burnett (Silver Spring) was offered as a compromise candidate to O'Neill.

After Walter Lange (Rockville-Potomac) switched his vote from Haughey to O'Neill on the 22nd ballot, O'Neill prevailed.

The last candidate to evoke nearly that much disagreement was Ana Sol Gutierrez, who in the mid-1990s won a leadership post after 16 votes, a school system spokesman said.

CHIEF THOMAS W. CARR