After spending 20 years with the Gainesville Fire Department, Fire Chief Jon Canada announced his retirement Wednesday.
The news came somewhat suddenly, with the retirement taking effect Oct. 12, less than two weeks from the announcement.
“I’m at that point in my career where I can make that decision. It’s been a really good 20 years, and I appreciate everything the city has done for me,” Canada said. “I got to live a childhood dream for the last 20 years.”
Gainesville City Council members offered little information about the move, directing questions to city spokeswoman Catiel Felts.
“I’m not at liberty to discuss it. We’ve been directed that Catiel would give our comments on his resignation from the city,” Councilman George Wangemann said. “Obviously, for him, it was in his best interest to do so.”
Felts said the city would not comment on the personnel issue, per city policy, other than what was issued in a news release.
Canada said he contemplated the decision of retirement for a while before submitting his official notice on Tuesday.
He said he plans to “make the rounds,” meeting face to face with the department staff before his last day.
“There’s a lot of stuff we have been through together, and it’s kind of bittersweet any time you leave a place, even by retiring,” he said. “It is difficult because of the friendships and relationships you establish. You may not miss the daily grind, but you’ll miss the folks.”
In the news release issued by the city Wednesday morning, City Manager Kip Padgett said he appreciated Canada’s leadership during the transition into the new fire station off Queen City Parkway and the creation of Georgia Search and Rescue Task Force Team One.
Canada said that task force was one of the things he was most proud of. He also cited updating the department’s fleet and hiring 18 more firefighters as other major accomplishments.
Padgett said that during Canada’s watch, the fire department maintained a Class II Insurance rating, one of only a few departments in Georgia to do so.
“I’m very proud of the accomplishments our department has made,” Canada said. “There’s been several things across the board we’ve been able to do. I said we — it’s not me because I’ve got a great staff and great group of folks here.”
Canada was named interim chief in November 2007 and was appointed full-time chief in February 2008. Since then, the time has gone by “extremely quick,” he said.
Canada said he has future opportunities in the private sector, and he is looking forward to spending time with his family.
“The announcement came as a complete surprise to me,” Councilman Bob Hamrick said. “I certainly did not have any indication that he was considering retirement. I certainly hate to see him go. He’s been a valuable employee for the city.”
Mayor Danny Dunagan said in the news release that Canada’s commitment to fire service was unparalleled.
“Jon grew up in the fire department and has spent the majority of his life working with and for the residents of Gainesville,” he said. “We have benefitted greatly from his knowledge of fire service and his dedication to this community. He will be greatly missed.”
Padgett said he will appoint an interim chief before Canada’s departure and will begin the recruitment process soon for a new chief.
Canada will help during the transition, and he expects it to be smooth and fairly simple.
“I feel like we as a department are in good shape,” he said. “I feel like I’m leaving a department that’s in good hands.
“Most of all I want to thank the citizens of Gainesville because they’ve been great and very supportive,” he said. “I’m not going to be a stranger definitely, but I’m going to miss them.”
Staff writers Lee Johnson and Matt Chambers contributed to this report.