Near the end of the City Council meeting on Tuesday, July 26, City Manager Eric Anderson announced Tacoma Fire Chief Eileen Lewis will soon be retiring.
Chief Lewis, who was the first woman in the U.S. to lead a large municipal fire department, has had a remarkable 24-years with Tacoma Fire. She joined the department in March of 1981 and progressively moved through the ranks. In 1993, Lewis was promoted to Fire Captain in the operations division and soon thereafter was named Assistant Chief of Administration. On April 15, 1996 she was named Deputy Chief of Administration. Later, she went back to field operations as a Battalion Chief and on February 26, 2000 she was promoted to Fire Chief.
As one of 5 metropolitan fire departments in the U.S. who have women as their top-ranking fire official, Lewis administered a department with more than 400 full-time firefighters and 36 civilian workers. During her career Chief Lewis has worked tirelessly to promote ethnic and gender diversity within the department and was committed to having the Fire Department reflect the community it serves.
On Monday, August 1, Deputy Chief Ron Stephens will take over as interim chief until recruitment and selection of a new chief is complete. Deputy Chief Ron Stephens, a 28-year veteran of the Tacoma Fire Department, is the first African American to hold the position of Fire Chief within the department. He started his career in March 1977 and was promoted to Lieutenant in April 1991. He became the Training Captain in January 1996 and was again promoted to Assistant Chief of Fire Prevention and Education in October 1999. Currently, he oversees administrative staff, the fire communications 911 dispatch center, recruitment and hiring of new firefighters. He also serves as the departments Public Information Officer and is the department’s Equal Employment Opportunity Officer.
The interim Fire Chief Ron Stephens expressed, I love this department – its one of the most progressive, diverse, inclusive and customer service oriented fire departments in the nation. I will do everything I can to build on this tradition and professionalism. Providing help to people in need is one of the highlights of the work we do. The citizens of Tacoma, Fircrest and Fire District 10 deserve and will receive all of the energy and dedication that I can give them.