Templeton Fire Chief O’Sullivan has warm memories as he retires

Tribune photo by Joe Johnston

As retiring Templeton Fire Chief Greg O’Sullivan pulled mementos of a 38-year career from his office walls on Wednesday morning, tears came to his eyes when he found an aged roll of Life Savers tucked inside a box.

“A firefighter gave me this 25 or so years ago, after I saved the life of a child who was choking,” O’Sullivan recalled. “It’s the little things like this where I get emotional (today).”

O’Sullivan, 57, has led the Templeton Fire Department for 12 years. His last day was Wednesday.

On staff at the Templeton Community Services District, he was responsible for the overall management and operations of the 25-person volunteer fire department.

O’Sullivan began his career with the U.S. Forest Service, where he remained for 11 years before working 16 years with the San Gabriel Fire Department as battalion chief. He then moved to Templeton.

Authoring Templeton’s fire-sprinkler ordinance — which required all but single-family residences to be fitted with sprinklers — is among O’Sullivan’s top accomplishments, colleagues say.

On Wednesday, his phone rang nearly nonstop as messages of congratulations poured in. Friends dropped by to sing “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow” shortly after a radio dispatch went out countywide wishing him well.

“If you’re his friend,” Assistant Fire Chief Rod Hewitt said, “you’re his friend forever.” O’Sullivan also had a knack for finding ways to retain the volunteer crew.

“You create an atmosphere of making these guys (see) they’re really valued,” said Bill Van Orden, retired general manager of Templeton’s CSD and O’Sullivan’s boss for nearly 11 years. “And he was excellent at that.”

O’Sullivan’s distinguished background also made Templeton personnel as trained as departments in larger cities, Hewitt said. “Day by day he brought his background here to give to us — to make us all equals.”

O’Sullivan was also extremely organized, Hewitt added, and always took the time to listen to his crew.

“I remember when he first came here, he said, ‘We’ll decide together what the rules are, but then I’ll enforce them,’ ” Hewitt said. “He’s very diplomatic.”

O’Sullivan has been involved locally with the American Red Cross, the Special Olympics, Templeton School District and coaching almost 30 recreational sports teams.

In retirement, O’Sullivan plans to travel with his family and take day trips on his motorcycle. He’s also looking forward to working part time at Trader Joe’s.

“He’s a people person, so it only makes sense that he’ll stay active with folks,” Van Orden said. “He’s a pretty sharp fella.”

O’Sullivan and his wife, Rose, love Templeton as a community in which to raise their teenage daughters, Carly and Paige, he said.

The Templeton Community Services District plans to announce the new fire chief at its Tuesday meeting.

The hiring process began with 47 candidates nationwide, officials said. Hewitt will serve as chief in the interim. A decision on the hire hasn’t been made public.