The San Luis Obispo Fire Department now has a second in command.
Garret Olson, fire chief in Scottsdale, Ariz., will join the department Aug. 20 as the deputy fire chief.
Olson will assume oversight of training, manage disaster preparedness for the city, make personnel decisions, assist with day-to-day operations, handle succession planning and respond to large incidents.
The post, part of a larger reorganization of the department, was created during the mid-year budget process in February by eliminating a battalion chief position that was exclusively used for training.
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The restructuring of the department stems from a 2009 master plan that recommended that the Fire Department, which has 44 sworn personnel, have a deputy chief.
“This department has never had a number two and that hit us when Chief Callahan died – there was nobody to take the reins,” said Fire Chief Charlie Hines. “We were able to create the job within the existing budget. We not only need boots on the ground but the people behind the scenes to give leadership."
Olson has worked for the Scottsdale Fire Department since 2004. He became chief in February 2011. He was recruited to help build the department from scratch. It now has more than 240 employees. Prior to that he worked for the Mesa, Ariz. Fire Department for 14 years. He started his career in Long Beach.
Olson, who will be paid between $111,592 and $139,516 annually, said that the move is part of a long desire he shared with his wife Susan to return to California. Transitioning to a smaller fire department won’t change his work ethic, he said.
“The same issues exist regardless of the size of the department, like budget, sustainability, appropriate training, programs and facilities,” said Olson. “I’m coming to San Luis Obispo to work my tail off for the community. There is real, meaningful work to be done. “
Scottsdale Deputy Fire Chief Jim Ford worked alongside Olson for seven years.
“His greatest strengths are his ability to communicate and look at alternatives,” said Ford. “His baseline and values are centered on what is good for the community. This is a gain for San Luis Obispo and a loss for us.”