- The Washington Times - Monday, March 2, 2015

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Monday her selection of former Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean to lead the District’s fire department, which has been long troubled by morale issues, union disputes, and training and readiness concerns.

The mayor’s nomination of Chief Dean ended an eight-month nationwide search for the next leader of the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. His nomination still must be approved by the D.C. Council, and he is expected to start May 4.

“Chief Dean is a proven, collaborative leader who led a department with an international reputation for its fire-based EMS performance,” Ms. Bowser said at a press conference to introduce the nominee.

A 44-year veteran with the Seattle Fire Department, Chief Dean led that agency for the last 10 years, gaining homeland security experience and a reputation for working well with labor unions. During his leadership, Seattle’s overall cardiac arrest survival rate climbed to a high of 62 percent, up from 26 percent in 2002. In addition, the fire department’s response time was 4 minutes, compared to 7 minutes in the District.

“I look forward to working with Mayor Bowser and FEMS providers to deliver efficient and compassionate fire and emergency medical services to the residents in all eight wards,” Chief Dean said Monday. “We will build on the department’s strengths and bring a data-driven approach that will ensure we are delivering top-notch services 24/7.”

“I have spoken at length with the mayor, and I am ready to bring much-needed reforms to build on the strength of this department,” he added.

He replaces embattled Chief Kenneth Ellerbe, who stepped down in July after having served three years in the post. Chief Ellerbe’s tenure was marred by complaints about poor service, disputes with labor unions and the 2014 death of Medric Cecil Mills, 77, who died of a heart attack across the street from a Northeast fire station where firefighters ignored calls about his crisis. Capitol Hill lawmakers called the department a “national embarrassment.”

Since July, the D.C. fire department had been led by interim Chief Eugene Jones, who now is on administrative leave pending his separation from the department. Chief Edward Mills, in charge of fire department operations, will serve as the interim leader until Chief Dean’s nomination is confirmed by the city council.

The D.C. fire department most recently weathered criticism in January for its response to a smoke-filled tunnel at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station where a passenger-filled commuter train had stopped. Firefighters arrived more than 30 minutes after the start of the incident, only to discover that their radios did not work in the tunnel. One female passenger died and dozens of others were injured.

As the interim leader, Chief Jones had campaigned to become the permanent department head, but Ms. Bowser told reporters Monday that she wanted to wipe the fire department’s slate clean and start fresh with Chief Dean.

However, Chief Dean has known criticism during his tenure in Seattle.

In 2010, KOMO-4 News reported about an investigation that eventually found that one of Chief Dean’s lieutenants had violated the city’s ethics code and failed to bill for fire services at a sports arena, costing the department thousands of dollars. The news report confirmed complaints that Chief Dean had refused to fully discipline the errant lieutenant.

After the news story broke, then-Mayor Greg Nickels officially reprimanded Chief Dean, but the fire chief was allowed to keep his job.

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