Fairfield’s fire chief to retire after 38 years with city

Fairfield Fire Chief Don Bennett will retire on Aug. 12, 2022, from the city after 38 years heading the department. Bennett was the city's first full-time fire chief when he was hired in 1984. PROVIDED

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Fairfield Fire Chief Don Bennett will retire on Aug. 12, 2022, from the city after 38 years heading the department. Bennett was the city's first full-time fire chief when he was hired in 1984. PROVIDED

Fire Chief Don Bennett will retire at the end of next week after 38 years of serving the citizens of Fairfield.

“It has been a true honor serving this community,” said the 70-year-old public servant. “We did what we needed to do to provide the best quality service that this community was deserving of. It took a little bit longer to get to where we are than I had anticipated.”

Bennett was Fairfield’s first full-time fire chief for the city when he was hired in April 1984 and said he has no regrets in his career that started when he was 18, when he first joined the then-Dunlap Volunteer Fire Department 52 years ago.

His retirement this coming Friday is because he doesn’t want any regrets as he enters life as a private citizen.

“I owe a responsibility to my family, to the fact that I want to dedicate time, particularly with my wife and my grandchildren, and I want to do it while I’m still physically able to enjoy the good things in life,” said Bennett.

The chief planned to retire this past April. However, the city had asked Fairfield voters to support a huge levy request ― a 9.25-mill continuing levy ― and he didn’t want to leave residents not only wondering how the city will transition from a combination to a career department before the May primary, but who would be the next fire chief.

Now that Fairfield’s career department transition plan has been put into action, where the 36 part-time firefighter positions will be transitioned into 18 full-time jobs over the next several years, it’s time for Bennett to step aside, he said.

“The one thing I reflected on,” the chief said regarding his retirement decision, “is if I wait for there never to be an issue, never to be a problem waiting around the corner to fix, I’ll never get out of here.”

Fairfield City Manager Scott Timmer said Bennett’s impact on Fairfield reaches far and wide in the community, and “we are better off because of it.”

“It’s rare that someone has the opportunity to make such a significant impact on a community for the duration of time that Don has been a part of the city of Fairfield,” he said. “What I admire most about his tenure is that he never stopped trying to improve the quality of service to our community. The Fairfield Fire Department has some of the best training facilities in the area and that is in large part to Don’s commitment for continuous improvement.

Before Timmer was hired as the city manager, Bennett, for 13 months, served as Fairfield’s acting city manager while still serving as the fire chief. He said it was “an understatement” to say he was beyond busy from mid-December 2020 to the first week of February 2022.

The city will honor Bennett from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday at the Fairfield Community Art Center, 411 Wessel Drive.

Timmer said there are specific steps he must take before hiring a new fire chief, including requesting a civil service exam. The Civil Service Commission will provide Timmer a list of the top five candidates to consider. Until a permanent chief can be hired, Timmer will appoint an acting chief nearly next week.


NEXT WEEK

The Journal-News next week will publish a profile on Fairfield Fire Chief Don Bennett, who’s retiring after 52 years in the fire service and 38 with the city.

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