After what may be East Pierce Fire and Rescue’s hardest months now behind them, Fire Chief Jerry Thorson announced his retirement during a special meeting Jan. 28.
Thorson said he has been thinking about retiring for several months, and has settled on April 30 as his official retiring date.
“This just felt like the right time to retire and allow the next generation of leaders to step into their new roles,” Thorson said in a press release. Thorson said the failure of the last Maintenance and Operation levy and the potential layoffs of six firefighters earlier in December did not prompt him to retire.
East Pierce’s Board of Commissioners said they are sorry to see the chief go.
“We certainly would like to have him stay,” commissioner Dale Mitchell said phone interview. “Every one of us. We were reluctantly accepting his resignation.”
Thorson has worked a total of 41 years in the fire service, working as a full-time firefighter, battalion chief and fire marshall before he became the Fire Chief at East Pierce.
As chief for six years, Thorson saw East Pierce grow as the district incorporated the cities of Edgewood and Milton into the fire service. Thorson also helped expand the Board of Commissioners from five members to seven members.
Thorson will retire shortly after Deputy Chief John McDonald also retires on Feb. 1, a month ahead of McDonald’s original retirement date of March 1.“It may seem a little odd with both (of us) going at the same time, but I don’t think it leaves the department in a lurch or creates any kind of leadership vacuum,” Thorson said. “We’ve got three strong assistant chiefs, and the battalion chiefs behind them.”
Mitchell said the commissioners have not decided how they will start looking for a new fire chief, though Mitchell and Thorson said the new chief may have their work cut out for them in the department.
“They will certainly have to hit the ground running with the funding issues and other things,” said Thorson. “But I don’t think they’ll have any unusual challenges. This district will attract a great individual to command and take over building what we’ve done up to this point.”
Thorson said he will spend his retirement focusing on family and his hobbies, though “I might look at an emergency manager job someplace. Something I can do part time and help out a little bit,” he said.