Yakima fire chief set to retire early next year

YAKIMA, Wash. -- For Chief Dave Willson, the end of the year marks the end of his career.

"It's time for my wife and I to start a new chapter."

A new chapter after 30 years with the Yakima Fire Department. He became interim chief in 2010 and got the temporary label removed the next year.

Things weren't always smooth sailing for Willson. He favored a proposal to develop a regional fire authority with the power to tax. But, Yakima City Council voted it down earlier this year.

"When it was voted down...Council decided not to go with it, it wasn't a personal attack," said Willson. "It wasn't an attack at all."

A deal between the firefighters union and the city brought pay raises, but also eliminated three battalion chiefs. A change that was not so easy for Willson.

"It is hard to get rid of a title that we've had for 80 years called a battalion chief," said Willson. "It is something that a lot of us have been at one time and it's hard to let that go. It's hard for me to let that go."

He insists public safety won't be affected by the change. And, is proud of the deal to eliminate the department's brownouts. He anticipates another administrative reorganization in the next year or so. And, despite the failure of the regional authority, he still sees the need for more cooperation.

"What needs to be done in the next five to ten years in this department is forming relationships with all the other departments in this Valley, from one gap to the next gap, and becoming more regionalized so that we're...we act as one."

Yakima's City Manager is looking at internal candidates to fill Willson's position.