Sandra Schiess Named Chief of Independence Fire Department in Missouri

Sandra Schiess is the new fire chief in Independence.

Schiess who had been interim chief since December, succeeds Larry Hodge, who served for 12 years in Independence and left to become fire chief in Round Rock, Texas.

She will lead 174 fire department staff members.

For me, personally, this is a dream, said Schiess, who added: I feel very qualified.

Schiess played a significant role in the August 2004 voter approval of public safety sales taxes which will benefit the citys fire and police departments, said Robert Heacock, Independence city manager.

Her commitment in serving the community has been beyond question, Heacock said.

I think that is what we need, an undying commitment to quality and providing service to the community by somebody who knows how to work with people.

Schiess, 47, began her fire service career in 1978 as a firefighter in Columbia, Mo.

I started out on the back of a red Mack truck, she said.

Schiess earned a bachelors degree from Stephens College in Columbia and a graduate degree from Columbia College, also in Columbia. She came to Independence in 2000 as assistant fire chief of administration.

She recently returned from Harvard University, where she completed a three-week program for senior executives in state and local government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Schiess is a member of both the Western Missouri Fire Chiefs Association and Women in the Fire Service. The only other female fire chief in Missouri that she is aware of, said Schiess, serves in Bolivar.

Schiess gender was not a specific factor in her hiring, Heacock said.

Its a positive, and clearly she has plowed new ground in her profession as a female, he said. But first and foremost I was looking at ability to move the department forward, and I think she has the skills and background to get the job done.

Distributed by the Associated Press