Sept. 03--Interim Fire Chief Tony Gossner has been selected as the next chief of the Santa Rosa Fire Department.
City Manager Kathy Millison appointed the 46-year-old veteran firefighter to lead the 145-person department on a permanent basis. Gossner has served as interim chief since the December 2013 retirement of Chief Mark McCormick.
The married father of two said he was "humbled and honored" and called it "a dream come true" to be given the chance to lead a department with such committed employees.
"We have a group of people that have passion and want to provide the best service possible, so that part makes my job easy," Gossner said.
Gossner has been in the fire service for 26 years, starting his career with Cal Fire in 1986. After working as a firefighter in Mill Valley, he was hired by Santa Rosa in 1990.
He's risen steadily through the ranks from firefighter to captain to division chief of training and safety and most recently deputy fire chief of operations and fire marshal. Now he takes the helm of a department with a $33 million budget and plenty of challenges ahead.
"There are a lot of big things coming up," Gossner said.
These include the decision about whether to take over fire services for the Rincon Valley Fire Protection District, which virtually surrounds the city.
Another involves replacing a federal emergency response grant that has prevented the part-time closure of fire stations. The expiration of the SAFER grant will leave about a $1 million budget gap next year unless additional grants or funding sources are identified, he said.
"Nobody wants to brown-out a fire station, but if the money isn't there, it's a last resort," Gossner said.
The department is also in the process of reorganizing the fire prevention bureau and needs to prepare for several anticipated retirements, he said.
The rank-and-file think he's up to the task.
Firefighters supported Gossner getting the interim post and are "really excited" to see him selected as the chief, said Tim Aboudara, president of the Santa Rosa Firefighters Local 1401 union.
"What I appreciate most about Tony is that when you ask him a question you know that you're going to get an honest answer," Aboudara said.
Millison said Gossner, facing significant department turnover, has worked hard to recruit new personnel.
"His approach to community engagement, his knowledge of fire command, and his commitment to team-building in the department will serve the city and the department well," she said in a statement.
Gossner will make a salary of $190,384 per year. Including benefits, it works out to a total compensation of about $308,000, according to the city.
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @citybeater.
Copyright 2014 - The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.