Capt. Robert Williams, a third-generation city firefighter and 25-year department veteran, was appointed chief Wednesday by outgoing Public Safety Commissioner Ronald Kim.
“I selected him because he has the best set of skills and leadership for what’s coming ahead,” Kim said.
Kim referred to the layoffs of at least six firefighters on Jan. 1 as part of the City Council’s efforts to reduce the size of the city’s 2010 budget. The city Fire Department currently has 56 firefighters.
Williams, 49, who has been captain for 14 years, will fill the vacancy caused by the retirement of longtime Chief Robert Cogan on Christmas Day.
“It was really a tough choice,” Kim said about selecting Williams over candidates Assistant Chief John Betor and Capt. Peter Shaw.
“All of them could have done the job,” Kim said.
Kim said he liked the fact that Williams presented the Public Safety Department with a written proposal on how to deal with the reduced manpower after Jan. 1. “He’s got a plan,” Kim said.
Williams will be paid approximately $90,000 per year as chief, according to city officials.
Cogan, who has been with the fire department for 34 years and chief for 14 years, said it was a good time for him to retire. He said his retirement means there will be six layoffs rather than seven after the first of the year.
“I don’t mind at all stepping aside,” Cogan said.
Cogan described Williams as “smart, focused and motivated.”
“He and [assistant chief] John Betor will make a dynamic partnership, they are both smart,” Cogan said.
Kim, a Democrat who made an unsuccessful run for mayor in November, will be replaced Jan. 1 by Richard Wirth, a Republican. Wirth said he was involved in the interview process this week that led to Williams’ appointment.
Wirth himself is interviewing seven candidates for the position of deputy public safety commissioner. He said he will announce his decision Jan. 1.
Williams said his grandfather became a firefighter in 1933 and his late father joined the department in 1954.
Williams said he will be seeking a variety of state and federal grants that might pay for additional firefighters in 2010. He said one grant application has already been made to the Federal Emergency Management Agency that is intended to keep fire departments at full staffing.
He said dealing with the loss of six firefighters on Jan. 1 will be an “ongoing process” with careful attention to the departmental budget and available outside revenue sources.
Williams and his wife, Sheri, have two daughters: Julia, 18, and Alysa, 14. They live on Seward Street.
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