After ten years leading the Surprise Fire Department, Chief Michael White has announced his intention to retire April 30, 2014.
“It has been a time of great change and rapid growth,” White said. “The men and women of the Surprise Fire Department have every reason to be proud of their achievements and I am privileged to have been their Chief since 2003.”
White came to Surprise from a 31-year career with the Glendale Fire Department, where he rose to the rank of Division Chief. He arrived during a period of hyper growth, when Surprise was one of the nation’s fastest growing communities.
“We have built and opened 5 fire stations since 2003 and developed an “all hazards” organization that can handle any emergency,” he said. “We invested heavily in paramedics and developed a department culture that embraces the latest medical technologies quickly. That has improved quality of life for everyone in Surprise, most especially for our emergency patients.”
White points to achieving “Premier EMS Agency” status through the State of Arizona as additional evidence of the department’s achievements.
“We have the right people and the right tools in place for continued success in a rapidly changing and very demanding emergency medical environment,” he said.
“Technology, growth and the economy presented challenges for the fire service every day of Chief White’s career here,” said City Manager Chris Hillman. “He seized those challenges and made us better, while keeping a sense of compassion at the heart of what the department does.”
Recruitment for a new fire chief is underway. Hillman says the city is aiming to have a new chief named prior to White’s April departure.
Surprise posted a recruitment brochure on its jobs website Monday and has set the application deadline for Jan. 17. In the brochure, along with qualifications, the city listed several priorities, including:
• Strategic planning for the ongoing growth of the city.
• Focusing on the professional development of staff.
• Coordinating efforts for optimum emergency preparedness.
• Proactive community outreach – developing/building on collaborative relationships with citizens and surrounding communities.
• Establishing constructive connections with regional partners.
• Establishing the Surprise Fire Department as a leader in national and regional crisis response.
City officials know it will be difficult to find to find someone who can meet all these target goals while cultivating a rapport like White did with employees in the department.
“He is everything you can ask for in a leader,” said Mayor Sharon Wolcott. “He’s a listener, he’s a respected innovator, he gets things done, he’s a great advocate for the department, and a person who always thinks of others first. We will miss him very much.”