It's official: Smokey Dyer finally out as KC fire chief
The Kansas City Star
The long-expected, long-needed retirement of Kansas City fire chief Smokey Dyer is finally official.
Dyer will leave City Hall soon, taking the incentives approved recently for veteran firefighters by the City Council, according to City Manager Troy Schulte.
And Dyer confirmed the news as well to The Star Wednesday morning.
This is good news for Kansas Citians - if Schulte uses the opportunity to hire a dynamic new chief who is well-trained in expertly leading a Fire Department that not only fights fires but also provides emergency medical responses.
While this news confirms what I and many others had hoped would happen (as in my post several months ago), Dyer’s retirement will shake up the Fire Department he has led for almost 12 years.
He had earned a national reputation for expanding his agency, working well with the powerful fire union but - in the end this year - failing to come up with a good way to reduce the department’s size during City Hall’s financial malaise.
Eventually, the council more or less wimped out: It approved a staffing cut of only around 30 firefighters - far below the 105 recommended by Schulte.
Worse, Mayor Sly James and the City Council approved a new bargaining agreement that prohibited the city from reducing the size of the Fire Department further without the union’s consent for the next three years. That was the wrong move to make given the uncertain economic times.
Dyer’s biggest failure has been the ability to smoothly merge the former Metropolitan Ambulance Services Trust with the Fire Department. Ambulance response times have lagged since the merger; morale among ambulance workers reportedly has suffered.
This should have been a key point of concern for Schulte, James and other council members. After all, the council had approved the merger under previous mayor Mark Funkhouser under heavy pressure from fire union leaders, especially previous president Louie Wright. And the council had told Dyer they had lots of confidence in him pulling off the merger.
But now Wright has retired (replaced by Mike Cambiano) and Dyer is on his way out.
Schulte told me late Thursday afternoon that he expects to appoint an interim fire chief, while conducting a national search for a new chief. He hopes to have a new chief in line within three months.
The city manager said there are some “exceptional folks out there” in departments across the country, who have experience leading fire staffs that have cross-trained firefighters.
That indicates Schulte will look outside the department for a new chief, something the city did in bringing Dyer, who had previously served as chief in Lee’s Summit.