TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Two men who joined the Topeka Fire Department the same year and rose to the top of the ranks together, will retire the same day.
Topeka Fire Chief Allen Bradshaw and Deputy Chief Edward DeWitt announced Thursday that they will retire Jan. 1, 2012. Each has served 32 years with TFD. Bradshaw served just over two years as Fire Chief.
Both will work their last day on Dec. 23.
“I would like to personally thank Chief Bradshaw and Deputy Chief DeWitt for their dedication and service to the citizens of Topeka," Interim City Manager Dan Stanley said. "Theirs will be very big shoes to fill.”
Bradshaw started working for the City of Topeka on June 2, 1975, first working for the Municipal Auditorium and then transferring to the Water Department. He joined the Fire Department on March 29, 1980, and worked his way up through the ranks as Firefighter, Apparatus Operator, Lieutenant, Captain, Battalion Chief, and Shift Commander.
Bradshaw was appointed Fire Chief on September 5, 2009, by then City Manager Norton Bonaparte. His father, Richard Bradshaw, served as Chief in 1991.
“It is all I’ve known my whole life, the Topeka Fire Department family,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw said the timing is right for his retirement. The 2012 budget is set, the 2013 budget process hasn’t begun, there isn’t pending union contract negotiations, and Deputy Chief of Operations DeWitt indicated that he would retire at the end of the year.
“I wouldn’t be leaving this department if I didn’t think there were excellent internal candidates that can step up during this transition and do a good job,” he said. “I and Deputy Chief DeWitt just want this to be a smooth and easy transition and that is why we are announcing our retirements now so that the City can move forward with it.”
DeWitt began his career May 10, 1980, as a Firefighter and worked his way up through the ranks as Apparatus Operator, Lieutenant, Captain, Battalion Chief, Shift Commander and Deputy Chief. He replaced Deputy Chief George V. Rocha, who retired in March after more than 30 years of service.
“I have been fortunate to have worked in a career where I can actually say that I loved coming to work every day,” DeWitt said.
Stanley said he plans to have an advisory panel review internal applications and make recommendations to him for the next Chief. He said the process is similar to that used to select Bradshaw in 2009. Stanley plans to have a new Fire Chief in place by the end of the year.
Bradshaw replaced Howard Giles as Chief. Giles was hired from out-of-state and had a tumultuous relationship with the firefighters union, including a vote of no confidence.
Additional information from the City of Topeka:
During his tenure as Chief, Bradshaw was instrumental in successfully reopening lines of communications between the firefighters and top administration following years of strained relations between the two groups. He helped negotiate the 2009 contract – the union had previously been working under an expired contract – and negotiated a new three-year contract which expires in 2013. His administration also worked under a “call back” budget that had been reduced for 2010 and 2011. The department also ended 2010 under budget.
Bradshaw oversaw the remodel of four stations. The department secured grants for new breathable air compressors, safety vests, fire prevention devices, and a Safer Grant that allowed for the hiring of nine firefighters. New performance assessments for all department classifications were put in place under his watch as well as a new tracking system for gear, training, leave and safety equipment.
“When he took over, Chief Bradshaw faced many daunting challenges – a workforce where morale was at an all-time low, fire trucks that were literally falling apart, fire stations that were sub-par, and an expanding community expecting continued adequate coverage in new growth areas,” Interim City Manager Daniel Stanley said. “He has met and exceeded all expectations, addressing those challenges in an admirable and professional manner.