July 29--In January, Patrick DeSarno was told he had a year to think over whether he wanted to be Scranton's permanent fire chief. It took him seven months.
Chief DeSarno, 53, announced Monday morning he resigned Friday from his position as lieutenant of the Scranton Fire Department, leaving the firefighter's union and his title of "acting chief" behind.
"I spoke with my family and we decided that now is the right time," Chief DeSarno said.
After working for the city Fire Department nearly a quarter century and rising from private through lieutenant, Chief DeSarno became acting chief in January. Mayor Bill Courtright likes what he has seen.
The chief brings "a wealth of experience" to the job, "works well with the men" and "has been implementing new ideas" to make the department work better, Mr. Courtright said.
The new chief is "a breath of fresh air," said John Judge, president of the firefighters union. He said Chief DeSarno has been open to new ideas from members and pursued grant funding to improve the operation.
"He came up through the ranks and understands what the guys in the trucks are doing every day," Mr. Judge said.
Chief DeSarno has also been effective at communicating the needs of firefighters to the administration -- something Mr. Judge said has been lacking for some time.
"In the last (seven months) as acting chief, he has improved morale dramatically," Mr. Judge said. "He has done more in (seven months) than anyone has done in the last 12 years."
One reason for waiting until now to take the position was his pension, in which he became fully vested after the 25th anniversary of his hiring date in May.
Since he is taking a city salary, his pension is frozen until after he turns 55 and after he retires from the fire department.
"There were no outside influences that made me retire," Chief DeSarno said.
He was named acting chief when the city's administration changed hands, so he could keep his firefighter's wage rather than the $50,000 salary outgoing Mayor Chris Doherty slashed from $67,228. Chief DeSarno's pay was set at $69,366.09.
"I'll be taking a little bit of a hit for the last five months," he said.
The only actual difference between permanent chief and acting chief is the ability to discipline subordinates without going through the city's human resources office. Aside from that, the difference is semantics.
While he acknowledges his role as permanent chief was all but secured in January, the actual transition into the role brings about a sense of security for long-term goals for the department. Chief DeSarno would like to continue to improve the department's fleet.
"It adds to the stability and solidifies the direction," Chief DeSarno said.
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Copyright 2014 - The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.