EUREKA – Bill Gillespie has resigned as Chief of Humboldt Bay Fire.
Reading from a prepared statement, Board Chair Kim Bergel said, “The Humboldt Bay Fire Joint Powers Authority Board has accepted the resignation of Fire Chief Bill Gillespie effective November 20, 2017.”
That was the only statement made Monday at a special meeting of the Humboldt Bay Fire Joint Powers Authority, officially ending Bill Gillespie’s tenure as Chief.
Gillespie said, “We were able to come to a mutual agreement and ultimately I want to make sure that things are for the betterment of the community and the department.”
Gillespie was hired by what was then called the Eureka Fire Department in 1996. He worked his way up the ranks first as a firefighter, captain, and then served as interim chief before accepting the full time position in April of 2016.
Bergel said, “I will miss him. I appreciate his dedication and service to our community. Always.”
But that service is over for now, and the reasons why weren’t revealed by the JPA.
Humboldt Bay Fire has lost several long time members over the last year and a half.
And in June, leadership was involved in a public dispute with the firefighters’ union over the suspension of the water rescue program.
Within that same week, the JPA Board also held the department’s first level five grievance hearing over one firefighter’s desire to wear a Black Lives Matter lapel pin.
The Humboldt Bay Professional Firefighters Local 652 issued this statement following the announcement: “It’s been a difficult time. There have been some gaps in Bill Gillespie’s leadership. The union is optimistic that this will improve union and management labor relations moving forward.”
As for what’s next for the department. Deputy Chief Bill Reynolds will serve as acting chief until an interim appointment can be made. Then the JPA will begin the process of hiring a permanent replacement.
Gillespie reassured, “The department’s still going to be there. The folks that are here they’re a very high level of professional and they will continue on to serve this community.”
The now former Chief added that you’ll still see him around, and the community is in good hands. “I want to see them carry forward and grow for the future. Because frankly I’m a customer now too,” Gillespie said.
JPA Chair Kim Bergel said the board will discuss the process of selecting a new chief at its next regular meeting.