Oregon Fire Chief Bill Wilkins, who announced last November that he would retire this June, left his post last Friday.
Mayor Mike Seferian said at a council meeting last week that Wilkins submitted a memo that read: “I submit a memo dated Nov. 1, 2009, of my intent to retire on June 25, 2010. This letter serves as my notice that I will be retiring under the police and fire pension system as fire chief for the City of Oregon effective Feb. 12…”
Wilkins left early to take a job with the state fire marshal’s office, Seferian said after the meeting.
City council unanimously concurred with the mayor’s acceptance of Wilkins’ retirement.
“I think Wilkins has served the city in a very distinguished manner, with a high degree of professionalism and integrity,” said Councilman Mike Sheehy. “Whatever he does, in his future career as a firefighter, I wish him the very best.”
Council President Clint Wasserman agreed.
“Having served as the safety committee chairman for the last three years, I had a chance to work with Chief Wilkins, and he has earned my utmost respect,” said Wasserman.
Wilkins was the second city official to announce his departure soon after Seferian beat incumbent Marge Brown in the mayor’s race in the Nov. 3 election.
Administrator Ken Filipiak submitted his resignation to take a job as city manager of Mentor, Ohio.
Brown’s appointment of Wilkins’ at a council meeting on Nov. 13, 2006 set off a firestorm of protest among firefighters. Brown had just read to council a letter of retirement from long time Fire Chief Ray Walendzak before appointing Wilkins, who had been assistant fire chief for just six months. Prior to that, he was fire chief in Defiance, Ohio.
Tempers flared one week later as firefighters packed council chambers at a committee of the whole meeting to slam the administration’s hiring policies, which they said had excluded them from applying for the positions of chief and assistant chief.
Firefighters later endorsed Seferian for mayor.
Assistant Chief Paul Mullin will be acting chief until Wilkins’ replacement is found.
Seferian said after the meeting that he plans to look within the department for a new chief.
“Hopefully, someone from our department will rise to the occasion and will be chief,” said Seferian.
He will wait until Mike Beazely, whom he appointed as the new city administrator, starts work in March to help in the search process.
Seferian said he wants to find a chief who will improve morale in the department.
“I’ve been as close as I could be with as many people in the department, so I already have some feelings for things there,” he said. “I’ve tried to figure out which person in that department would do the best for turning that around and getting the department to function as a whole. If we can put that to rest, I can only imagine, even as good of a job as they’re doing, it will get better. Then we’ll work on other issues in the department.”