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Santa Rosa Fire Chief Mark McCormick announces retirement

Santa Rosa Fire Chief Mark McCormick announced his retirement Thursday after 22 years with the department and 35 years in the fire service.

McCormick, 54, has led the department since 2011 and was credited with helping secure the $3 million federal grant that allowed the department to hire 12 firefighters and open all 10 fire stations full-time.

He will officially retire Dec. 27. The announcement came a week after the city's other top public safety officer, Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm, disclosed he will retire effective Dec. 20.

“I can't say enough about how proud I am of our employees,” McCormick said. “Through the economic downturn it was a significant challenge to keep everyone motivated.”

City Manager Kathy Millison said McCormick oversaw several important efforts in his short tenure, including relocating and modernizing the city's Emergency Operations Center, obtaining grants to invest in technology, developing plans for a new station in the Fountaingrove neighborhood and overseeing the department during a time of high turnover.

Millison said she hopes to hire one firm to handle recruitment for both top posts. The searches are expected to take about five months. Millison and McCormick said they are working on a plan for running the department during that transition. The second in command is Tony Gossner, who has been deputy chief for about a year and a half.

Before working for Santa Rosa, McCormick served for four years as a firefighter with the Air Force and later served in firefighting and hazardous materials management assignments with fire agencies in Southern California and Washington State.

McCormick was hired in Santa Rosa in 1991 as a fire inspector and rose through the ranks to firefighter, captain, deputy chief/fire marshal and served as interim chief for eight months before being appointed to the position.

McCormick's gross pay in 2012 was $202,193.12, according to city records. Generally speaking, public safety officials are eligible to retire with 3 percent of their pay for each year worked in qualifying retirement systems up to a maximum of 30 years.

McCormick was the city's 12th fire chief since the department was founded in 1894. He was the first chief promoted from within since 1972 when Michael Turnick took the helm of the department, serving until 1985.

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