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New Hamilton fire chief promoted from within; spent 7 years as deputy chief

The Hamilton Fire Department reached within its ranks to select a new chief to replace the retiring Steve Dawson, as Deputy Chief Mark Mercer was tabbed to take on the role.

The move to hire Mercer, who will be paid $116,771 annually, was confirmed Monday afternoon by Scott Scrimizzi, the city’s executive director of Public Safety.

He said Mercer will have a public swearing in ceremony on Feb. 14, at the next scheduled City Council meeting. He will be sworn in by Mayor Pat Moeller.

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Scrimizzi said Mercer is a welcome addition in the new role and that the retiring Dawson served the city with honor.

“Chief Mercer is passionate about the department and the citizens they serve, he will do a great job,” he said. “Chief Dawson is a good man and not only served his community, but also his country as a Marine.”

Mercer had served as deputy chief since 2011 and graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a Bachelor of Science degree in Fire and Safety Engineering Technology.

In his role as deputy chief, Mercer was assigned to the Training Bureau to oversee fire department training, personnel certifications, and special projects.

He said staffing and replacing an aging fleet of vehicles are two issues he’d like to tackle, but he’s happy that after 29 years in the department, the top job is now his.

“It feels good to be here in this position. I have spent a lot of time thinking about where we are and where we need to be,” Mercer said. “We have a fourth medic unit that I would like to see staffed every day.”

Mercer is a 1985 Hamilton Badin grad, and he said coming up through the ranks in the department has been special.

“I came up through the ranks and started as a firefighter with no training, but got all of my training here in Hamilton,” he said.

Dawson, who served a little more than five years as chief, made his retirement announcement in September and used vacation time until his official final service date last week, said Mercer is a great choice to replace him. He also reflected on what it meant to serve the city.

“I want to say that I feel very confident that I am leaving the department in very good hands,” he said. “Mark is well qualified and well prepared. As I walk out the door I am very hopeful for the future of the Hamilton Fire Department.

“I always thought I was very blessed to be on the Hamilton Fire Department, it has been a great job and great career. After 33 years I am going to miss the job, and as I leave, I want to say I will miss the men and women of the department. They have faced several adversities the last couple of the years, but they kept providing exceptional service on a 24/7, 365 days a year basis.”

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