Fire chief Doug Trussler to retire next summer

Recruitment is also underway to replace retiring emergency management chief Barry Manuel.

Trussler back in January. - THE COAST
The Coast
Trussler back in January.

Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Services chief Doug Trussler will retire next summer. The municipality posted a request for proposals online Monday to recruit a replacement.

The fire chief’s contract was set to end this December, but according to municipal spokesperson Brendan Elliott he’s negotiated a six-month extension to stay on until July, 2017. Trussler has overseen HRM’s fire department for the last five years.

“This is just the right timing for him,” says Elliott. “It wasn’t anything council did; it wasn’t anything that frustrated him. He had this date circled.”

A year ago the chief faced harsh criticism while repeatedly trying to justify a proposal for reallocating fire department staff and equipment. Independent studies seemed to confirm those plans—which would have closed the King Street station in Dartmouth and staffed others with volunteers on nights and weekends—wouldn’t have impacted public safety. But the firefighter union, nearby residents and councillors like the now-retired Gloria McCluskey felt differently, and Trussler was repeatedly attacked in the media before council ultimately buckled to public pressure and put forward a more expensive staffing proposal that was easier to swallow.

Trussler isn’t “walking away bitter,” says Elliott. He just wants to see through next year’s budget and a new class of recruits in the spring. The spokesperson couldn’t confirm whether the contract extension includes any pay raise or bonus.

In January, Trussler told The Coast he fully intended to see through his contract to the end of the year, but whether he’d continue on in 2017 was something he’d have to work out with HRM’s new CAO. “Whether or not he even wants me back.”

Before moving to Halifax, Trussler spent close to 15 years as a fire chief in British Columbia.

Halifax is also looking to replace the retiring Barry Manuel, division chief for HRM’s Emergency Management Office. His last day is April 30.

“It’ll be a really big loss for us when he walks away, just for the historic knowledge he has,” says Elliott. Manuel worked through the Swiss Air disaster, and both Juans (Hurricane and White).

“There will be a huge void there if we can’t find someone to replace him while he’s still on the job.”

Update: Trussler tells HRM (who in turn tell The Coast) that one other big reason for his staying on an extra six months is an upcoming report on whether Regional Council should change HRFE's service delivery standards (which haven't been updated since 2006). That external report is due back early in 2017.

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