Longtime San Diego Firefighter Tapped to Lead Department

June 14, 2024
Deputy Chief Robert Logan, whose appointment must be approved by city officials, said he'll focus on keeping the morale high.

David Garrick

The San Diego Union-Tribune


A longtime San Diego firefighter who's highly respected by his peers is Mayor Todd Gloria's choice to be the city's next fire chief.

Deputy Chief Robert Logan, a San Diego native who says he faced significant adversity growing up in the city's southeastern neighborhoods, was chosen over two finalists from outside the department.

"Deputy Chief Logan brings with him an exceptional blend of experience, leadership and vision that I believe is essential for guiding our department into the future," the mayor said at a City Hall news conference Wednesday.

Logan's selection, which the City Council must approve next month, continues a long trend of insiders rising to the top job. San Diego hasn't hired an outsider as chief in more than two decades.

Gloria's selection comes three weeks after a group of San Diego firefighters launched an online petition in support of Logan.

The mayor said he would only have chosen an outsider if he thought the city didn't have an insider capable of maintaining — and possibly elevating — the department's excellent reputation.

Logan, 51, said after the news conference that the two biggest challenges he faces are solidifying a new ambulance service model and financial constraints resulting from the city's tightening budget situation.

When he takes over for retiring Chief Colin Stowell in August, Logan said he plans to "reintroduce" the department to the public with volunteer opportunities and other community efforts.

He also said he hopes to make San Diego a regional or statewide hub for fire marshal classes.

Logan said employee morale, which seems likely to get a boost from his selection as chief, is also a priority.

"Not to toot my own horn, but I had a very large backing from our department and partners around the county," he said.

City firefighters usually oppose hiring an outsider based on concerns someone from another fire agency would struggle to understand the department's culture and would face a steep learning curve.

An outsider, they say, could be unfamiliar with some of the department's emergency management protocols, how the city handles its wildland-urban interface and San Diego's unusual topography with many canyons.

The last outsider the city hired to run the department was Jeff Bowman, who had been the top fire official in Anaheim before San Diego hired him away in 2002.

Logan said high morale can't be taken for granted.

"I believe morale is on a high at the moment, but we need to capitalize and keep it there," he said.

That will include focusing on wellness and workload, Logan said.

"Moving forward, we need to find creative ways to ensure that the mental health of firefighters is addressed, that call volume is addressed and keep morale at an all-time high," he said.

After starting as an emergency medical technician in 1999, Logan worked his way through nearly every job in the department. But he never reached the level of assistant chief, the level just below chief.

"I would be naive if I said there aren't still things I need to learn," Logan said.

Gloria said he was impressed by Logan's leadership, innovative thinking and plans to use technology to boost emergency response times in the city.

During the news conference, Logan said his grandmother taught him his work ethic, integrity and love for others. But she also taught him how to fight adversity.

"I faced challenges and obstacles upon every door I tried to open as a young child, as an adolescent and as an adult," he said.

Logan attended what was then Kennedy Elementary, now Porter Elementary, and Kearny High.

He says he wasn't focused on school, partly because he had to work as a teen to support his household. He eventually graduated from a continuation high school in San Diego Unified.

Stowell, who has led the department for six years, said he thinks Gloria made the right choice.

"I have full confidence in Chief Logan," he said. "I think he's going to carry on the legacy of this department and the reputation we have throughout the state."

The labor union representing city firefighters also praised the choice Wednesday.

Union vice president Mark Morrison said he was part of the panel that interviewed the three finalists.

"It was very clear through his and my conversation that Chief Logan is dedicated to making this department a world-class organization that prioritizes its most precious asset, which is the workforce," Morrison said.

Logan's salary will be between $300,000 and $325,000.

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.

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