Ryan Gillespie is officially on the job as Portland Fire & Rescue's new interim chief after the sudden departure of former Fire Chief Mike Myers.
Gillespie — who previously served as deputy chief for the medical services and training division— was hired by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty during a search that began the day after she was placed in control of the bureau by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.
Gillespie's first official day was Friday, Feb. 1. Myers agreed to delay his exit by an extra week to ease the transition.
Hardesty praised Gillespie in a statement as "an early and ardent advocate" of equity who can speak "confidently and intelligently on the issue."
She said union leadership also approved of her appointment, and described meeting with multiple qualified contenders within the bureau who could have easily been offered the job. But the promotion came with a caveat. The interim chief will not be allowed to apply for the position of permanent bureau leader.
"It is my experience that allowing an interim to compete in the process provides an unfair advantage and discourages others from applying," Hardesty explained.
Gillespie has been climbing the career ladder since joining the bureau as a firefighter in 1998. He has also served as a lieutenant, captain and battalion chief at fire stations in North and Northeast Portland.
His new responsibilities include directing the hiring and promotion process, leading the Community Health Assessment Team, the health and wellness program, EMS innovations program, as well as joining the workplace assessment executive team and equity committee.
"Chief Myers is leaving us with a legacy with which PF&R can continue to positively impact our community through his vision and innovation," Gillespie said. "I am excited for this opportunity to work closely with Commissioner Hardesty."
Added former chief Meyers: "I have long been impressed with Chief Gillespie's intelligence, calm demeanor, passion for the fire service and technical knowledge. He is a great leader and I think the commissioner has made an excellent choice."
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