San Luis Obispo City Fire Department Chief Charlie Hines plans to retire on Sept. 10, according to an e-mail from the city manager’s office obtained by New Times.
According to the e-mail, sent at approximately 10 a.m. on July 23, Hines and City Manager Katie Lichtig had been discussing his desire to “spend more time with his family.”
“We will miss Charlie’s commitment to the community, caring and compassionate demeanor and his dedication to serving with distinction,” Lichtig wrote to members of the City Council in a July 23 e-mail. “Charlie has a servant’s heart and that characteristic has been an inspiration to many, including me. We will miss Charlie but wish him all the best as he and [wife] Lorie chart out the next chapter of their lives.”
Lichtig wrote that the city will immediately begin the selection process, and in the event that a successor isn’t named until Hines’ last day, Deputy Chief Garret Olson will serve as acting chief until one is found. Lichtig credited Hines with establishing Olson’s position, which she said will make this and subsequent transitions run more smoothly in the future.
The selection process, she said, will entail focus groups aimed at gaining input about the characteristics of the next fire chief from “internal and external stakeholders.”
Hines has served with the city since October 2010, following the sudden passing of former chief John Callahan. Hines formerly served as the fire chief in the City of Yakima, in Washington State.
Hines’ departure comes at a time of increased public scrutiny following the city’s reinstatement of controversial firefighter John Ryan Mason, who received his job back—with a pay cut and demotion—in June.
Lichtig’s e-mail received at least one response, which was forwarded to New Times, from Councilman Dan Carpenter, a vocal critic of the city’s handling of the Mason issue, as well as her managerial style.
“Nice ... [Hines] rehires Mason and then retires,” Carpenter wrote directly to Lichtig. “Once again, we get left the horrid remnants of your ineffective decision making and management style. The residents of SLO deserve better.”
“I appreciate that everybody can have an opinion, but the reality is that the city is moving forward on incredibly important issues,” Lichtig told New Times in response on July 24, citing examples such as the Land Use Circulation Element update. “Whether people agree with the city or disagree, we are making real progress on those fronts.”