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Duluth Fire Chief John Strongitharm to retire at year's end

Duluth Fire Chief John Strongitharm will retire at the end of the year, the longtime firefighter said Monday. Strongitharm, 55, said his last day on the job will be Dec. 31. It will be up to Mayor Don Ness to pick a replacement. Strongitharm said...

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Duluth Fire Chief John Strongitharm announced his pending retirement on Monday. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com

Duluth Fire Chief John Strongitharm will retire at the end of the year, the longtime firefighter said Monday.

Strongitharm, 55, said his last day on the job will be Dec. 31. It will be up to Mayor Don Ness to pick a replacement. Strongitharm said he’ll have suggestions for Ness on who to pick, but he didn’t want to make those names public at this point.
Strongitharm, a Duluth native who attended Denfeld High School and graduated from St. Scholastica, has been on the force since 1986. He worked as a fire equipment operator, captain and deputy fire marshal and as the city’s fire marshal from 1997-2003. He was appointed chief in March 2003 by then-Mayor Gary Doty to replace then-chief Dan Haus, who retired.
“I made it through three mayors,” Strongitharm joked Monday.
The chief says he wants to spend more time with his family while he’s still healthy.
“It’s just time. I’ve been doing it 29 years and it felt like a good time to go, especially since I’m at full pension now,” Strongitharm said.
Strongitharm said he is most proud of modernizing the department by adopting national emergency response standards and upgrading communications and safety equipment.
“It’s a safer department for our firefighters now and we’ve got a better response to’’ emergency calls, Strongitharm said. “We brought the department into the 21st century after a system that really hadn’t changed much since the 1930s.
“We used to have a bunch of fire trucks but not enough people to staff them. Now, we’ve got fewer trucks, but they are better equipped and fully staffed and they can start putting out fires as soon as they get there.”
Ness told the News Tribune that he’ll look to Strongitharm for suggestions on who should take over the 142-member department that includes firefighters, support staff and housing inspectors.
“Certainly my preference is to find a firefighter in Duluth to take over the role,” Ness said. “I want to hear from John and get his input on what the process should look like.
“It’s been an honor to work with John over the last 15 years both as a city councilor and mayor. He’s a true public servant and has been a strong leader for the fire department. We’re going to miss his presence and his leadership.”

Related Topics: FIRES
John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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