Fire chief and deputy chief to leave fire department

Changes are coming to the Redmond Fire Department (RFD) as two of the top jobs will become vacant this month.

Fire Chief Kevin Donnelly will be retiring from the RFD with his last day set for Jan. 31. In addition, Deputy Fire Chief Bill Newbold has left the department for a position at the Bellingham Fire Department. His last day was earlier this week.

City of Redmond Mayor John Marchione said he and Donnelly began having conversations about the fire chief's leaving in mid-December 2012. Marchione said Donnelly wants to travel with his wife and spend time with his grandchildren, adding that Donnelly had not foreseen this opportunity when he accepted the job with RFD in March 2011.

While Donnelly's retirement leaves Marchione with the task hiring a new fire chief, the mayor said he understands the other man's reason for leaving.

One of Marchione's previous jobs before becoming Redmond mayor was working as the assistant to the city manager in Federal Way, which he left to be a stay-at-home dad and take care of his son.

"You can pause your career but you can't pause your family life," he said.

The news of Donnelly's retirement was announced to city employees on Jan. 2.

Once Donnelly leaves, Redmond Police Chief Ron Gibson will temporarily oversee the fire department. Jeri Rowe-Curtis, chief policy adviser and communications and marketing administrator for the city, said Gibson has served as acting fire chief before and is "ready to do so again to assist the city during this transition."

Under Gibson's leadership, the fire department will go through its strategic planning process for the year, which Marchione said will address the services the fire department provides, how these services are delivered and whether standards are being met and more. Changes may come as a result of this process or the department may decide the structure they have in place already works well, but the mayor said they won't begin looking for a new fire chief until this planning process is complete. He said this will make it easier to write a job description for the fire chief, adding that they will ask the community for help with this as they have done previously. Marchione said this will probably take about a year.

Before leaving, Newbold, who had been with RFD for 19 years, was one of two deputy fire chiefs reporting to the fire chief. He oversaw the medics in the fire department while Deputy Fire Chief Russell Albertson oversees the department's operations.

Marchione said previously, the medics were under one chain of command while firefighters were under another chain of command. Now that Newbold has left, the medics will merge with the firefighters and operate as a team. Marchione said this means everyone will now be under the same leadership structure, reporting to a battalion chief, who reports to the deputy fire chief.

This plan to synch the medics with the firefighters has been two years in the making and while residents won't see any changes in service, Marchione said this is a more cost-effective way to deliver services as there will be more people on the front line and less in supervision.

With this shift, Marchione said it has not been determined whether Newbold's position will be filled, left vacant or eliminated completely. He said this will be up to Gibson as he and the fire department go through the strategic planning process.

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