California City Gets New Chief from Phoenix

Updated: 04-02-2007 09:46:48 AM

Kristina Davis and Lola Sherman, STAFF WRITERS
The San Diego Union-Tribune

OCEANSIDE -- The search for a new fire chief may be over.

Assistant Chief Terry Garrison of the Phoenix Fire Department tentatively accepted the city's offer to lead the Oceanside Fire Department, interim City Manager Peter Weiss said yesterday.

"It's not official yet," Weiss said.

Garrison, 49, said that he and the city signed an unofficial contract at City Hall yesterday and that he might start by June 1.

"I'm really excited. I feel honored to be selected for this position," Garrison said after flying back to Phoenix last night. "I know the city management has made quite a commitment to the future of Oceanside and the fire service, and I feel fortunate to have that kind of confidence."

Garrison said his salary has yet to be determined. He makes around $130,000 a year in Phoenix.

Weiss said he expects to make a formal announcement Monday.

On Garrison's agenda will be fire prevention and improving response times as the city grows.

"We certainly need to look at Oceanside and see where the best place is to add some fire stations to decrease response times," Garrison said, citing a new study on response times in the city.

The department has been without a permanent leader since the last chief, Robert Osby, retired in 2005.

Battalion Chief Rob Dunham filled in as interim chief until September, when he announced that he was stepping down for personal reasons.

The city then hired San Diego's veteran Fire Chief Jeff Bowman on a six-month contract. His job description included advising the department on hiring a permanent chief.

Bowman could not be reached yesterday.

Other Oceanside fire officials said they had not heard the news of the hire.

Garrison, a 30-year veteran of the Phoenix Fire Department, is head of the Urban Services Division, which includes homeland defense, special operations and fire investigation, according to a city of Phoenix Web site.

Garrison, who had planned to retire soon from the Phoenix department, said he heard of the opening in Oceanside when he met several Oceanside firefighters at a conference in Phoenix.

He also was one of five finalists for fire chief in San Antonio, according to a report in the San Antonio Express-News this month.

Garrison is also employed as a consultant at Texas A&M University, working with local officials on large-scale terror-response exercises.

His teaching background includes managing the fire science program at Phoenix Community College and traveling throughout Asia teaching fire science.

He earned degrees at Ottawa University and Northern Arizona University and is enrolled in Arizona State University's Institute for Public Executives Program.