Ronald L. Mastin, the chief of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department for the last five years, is going to retire in May. He apparently informed Fairfax of this several months ago, because the process for selecting his successor is well down the road. In fact, the application deadline was Nov. 30, so if you were interested in being the next Fairfax fire chief and didn’t know, tough luck.
You may not have known because Fairfax County decided not to announce Mastin’s retirement, either publicly or through a department-wide internal announcement. I found this a bit odd, not to report the pending departure of the head of a 1,900-member public safety agency, possibly the largest fire department in Virginia, or disclose the search for a successor. The fire department has an annual budget of $160 million of taxpayer money.
“Retirement is a personal decision that individuals make with themselves and their family,” said Fairfax fire spokesman Dan Schmidt. ”He’s a really kind of low-key guy, really shuns the limelight.” He said Mastin would not be doing any interviews.
County spokeswoman Merni Fitzgerald pointed out that Mastin’s job was advertised on the Fairfax County website, and since he isn’t formally retiring until the spring, there was no need to announce it now. Schmidt said the chief’s job was advertised in fire trade publications beginning in October. “Just because you didn’t know about it doesn’t mean there hasn’t been notice for a job vacancy. It’s been approved by the Board of Supervisors. The chief, by not having a Facebook release, I don’t think that’s unusual.”
In talking with knowledgable fire folks, there doesn’t seem to be anything suspicious about Mastin’s quiet retirement. He will have served almost six years by May, which was about what was expected when he was hired in 2007. He is 59, and served 28 years on the Fairfax department from 1973 to 2001, then became chief in Henrico County for six years before returning to Fairfax. By providing seven or eight months of advance notice, Mastin gives Fairfax an opportunity to have a new chief in place on the day he leaves.
The Googler reveals that Brian Trompeter first reported this in the Sun-Gazette papers on Nov. 29, a day before the deadline to apply for the job. On Tuesday, Patch.com reporter Raytevia Evans heard Mastin say he was attending his final toy and coat drive for the department, and turned that into this story on Wednesday. So gradually, word of the change in administration for the Fairfax department, home of the world famous Urban Search and Rescue team, is trickling out.
Here’s some video of Chief Mastin in 2010, announcing that the entire department would be wearing pink t-shirts during Breast Cancer Awareness Month: