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DOWNEY − Downey’s new fire chief, Mark Gillaspie, pledged to carry on the reputation of the city’s fire department last Friday during an emotional swearing-in ceremony inside the city council chambers.
Gillaspie is just the ninth person to serve as chief of the Downey Fire Department.
With nearly 100 community leaders, residents, and family members looking on, City Manager Gilbert Livas administered the oath of office to Gillaspie, a 25-year veteran of the Downey Fire Department, who was chosen in May to succeed outgoing fire chief Lonnie Croom.
“This is unbelievable for me,” Gillaspie said. “I never really thought about being a fireman or a fire chief, but this is more than just a job. I promise to do my best as I always have – I pledge that to you.”
Gillaspie was hired as a full-time firefighter for Downey in 1989 after relocating to California from Grinnell, Iowa. He was quickly promoted through the ranks and has served as battalion chief since 2000. In 2011, Gillaspie was appointed as assistant fire chief, overseeing department operations, the multi-agency communications center, and as fire marshal, he also managed the department’s fire prevention bureau.
“This is a big deal for you,” said Livas who encouraged Gillaspie to remember the excitement of his first day. “There will be days that are tough, but don’t forget this day.”
In his remarks following the swearing-in, Gillaspie became emotional while thanking his family, including his parents, his wife of 25 years, Sue, and their three sons, Jake, Mitchell, and Bret.
“It’s been a lifelong journey getting to this point — Sue has made the sacrifices with me,” he said. “My sons are my pride and joy…I do all of this to be a good role model for them.”
Gillaspie, who has acknowledged the tumultuous history between city management and the fire department, ended with a conciliatory message, praising city firefighters for their excellent customer service and dedication.
“I am truly impressed with them every day,” he said. “As fire chief, I promise to remain professional and make it the best department I can. I challenge myself to remain humble and dedicated, and I swear that’s what I will continue to do.”
Published: Aug. 7, 2014 – Volume 13 – Issue 17