TAHOE CITY, Calif. - Mike Schwartz, a 30-year fire service veteran, has been named North Tahoe Fire Protection District's new fire chief, effective Nov. 1.
The district's board of directors approved Schwartz, 53, for the position at its Aug. 15 meeting after a several-month selection process that included a community panel, along with the board interviewing five final candidates, said board president Don Hale.
"I'm very excited to be here, and I'm honored to be serving this community," Schwartz said in an interview this week. "... This is a great responsibility, but I'm really proud to do it, and I've come to it really prepared."
Schwartz comes from the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District in Incline Village where he served as firefighter/paramedic, a fire captain and most recently as a battalion chief. He holds a paramedic degree from Stanford University, an associate's degree in fire science from Truckee Meadows Community College and a bachelor's degree in public administration with an emphasis on fire service administration from the University of Maryland.
"We picked the one that we thought would best serve the interests of the district and board," Hale said. "He (Schwartz) being the most capable based on background, communication skills and knowledge of the district."
Schwartz replaces Peter Poe, who will retire at the end of this month. Poe has served as fire chief for the past eight months following the retirement of longstanding Chief Duane Whitelaw.
In the position of fire chief, Schwartz will earn $126,732 annually, said Nita Wracker, administration manager for NTFPD.
The North Tahoe Fire Protection District serves an area of 31 square miles on the north and west shores of Lake Tahoe through six fire stations, located in Alpine Meadows, Tahoe City, Homewood, Dollar Hill, Carnelian Bay and Kings Beach, and employs 57 paid employees, 20 of whom are part-timers.
"I've been their neighbor for 30 years, so I've fought fires with almost everyone here," Schwartz said. "I've done medical calls and saved lives with these people, and together we've mourned our losses collectively, so I'm close enough to believe I really understand the culture of both the fire service and the lake community, but also just far enough to bring new ideas."
As for his ideas for the future of the district, Schwartz said his first item of business is to uphold current service levels.
"Having had a lot of experience in the fire service and organizational management, my first goal to both the internal organization and externally to the community is to ensure them a continuity of services," Schwartz said. "I mean both administratively and emergency responses.
"Over the next several months, I will be spending my time evaluating best practices to see what things I do agree with, and I think slowly, over time, I will infuse my own values, ideas and practices into the organization."
An organization, he insists, that already is doing a fine job.
"This organization has all the pillars for success," Schwartz said. "They have a great community, great people, a good process and is a customer service operation that takes pride in delivery. That's truly its strengths, and any changes I might have down the road will just be to complement what they already have."
Schwartz and his wife of 25 years, Jean, have four children ranging in age from 19 to 32, and two grandchildren.
In his time off, he said he enjoys skiing, snowboarding, wakeboarding and going camping and hiking in state parks with his wife.
"At this juncture we're looking forward to a long and lasting relationship with him and the district, and we're confident that he will do a good job," Hale said.