Johnson City firefighters welcome chief’s retirement

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – Embattled Johnson City Fire Chief Mark Scott plans on retiring on June 2, according to the City of Johnson City. The city is now in the process of searching for a new chief.

“It has been my intent to retire when I hit my 30-year mark,” Chief Scott said in a statement. “With that milestone being tomorrow, I’m happy to announce that I will be spending the summer traveling and hiking with my family. Family comes first, and I’m just grateful that I can retire to do the things I need and want to do at this point in my life.”

See also: City manager to meet with employees after task force recommends removal of Johnson City fire chief

Chief Scott’s retirement announcement follows a task force’s recommendation that the city hire a new chief. That recommendation followed multiple concerns over more than a year about Chief Scott, including a vote of no confidence and an internal investigation that did not substantiate workplace harassment, but did find the chief may have abused a subordinate.

According to City Manager Pete Peterson, the city is “operating on an aggressive timetable to find Chief Scott’s replacement.”

Peterson praised the longtime employee’s service to the city.

See also: Johnson City fire chief accused of saying older firefighters need to ‘get the f*** out of here’

“Our Fire Department has risen to a new level of service under Chief Scott,” Peterson said. “Our response times have improved, and through enhanced coordination with EMS, we are now responding to more medical calls. The achievement of the ISO Class 1 rating put us in an elite group that only a handful of departments across the country are part of. We thank him for his service, and we wish him the best in his retirement.”

Peterson named Scott as chief in 2011.

Johnson City Firefighters Association President Charlie Ihle welcomed the news of Chief Scott’s retirement.

“I think it’s a good thing for the department moving forward,” he said. “I think the department’s going to be able to grow and move forward. It’s just disheartening that it took this much, that much effort to be heard.”

The timing of the chief’s “voluntary” announcement allows him to collect his full retirement benefit. Peterson says Chief Scott approached him about retiring before he could decide what direction the city was going to take moving forward.

“I guess I’m kind of disappointed that Peterson didn’t get to have that conversation with Chief Scott after all of this.” Ihle said. “Personally, I never wanted Chief Scott to lose everything out of this. I’m sure there’s other people in the department that feel differently.”

Peterson says the controversy that surrounded the chief in recent years shouldn’t overshadow his accomplishments.

“While his tenure as fire chief has had its rocky spots, he’s also got a number of very significant accomplishments done on his watch as well,” Peterson said. “Chief Scott has done us a really good job…It’s unfortunate that it’s been highlighted by a lot of controversy towards the end of his career, but that’s the way it goes in public service.”

Peterson says firefighters have asked him to look outside of the department for the new chief. He says they’ve also recommended a quicker hiring and promotion process.

Ihle says he thinks firefighters can now put the past behind them and start building a better relationship with city hall.

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