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The City of Portland, Oregon

Fire & Rescue

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55 SW Ash Street, Portland, OR 97204

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Commissioner Hardesty picks Division Chief Sara Boone as New Chief

Boone will take reigns in August

Fire Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty announced today that she has chosen Division Chief Sara Boone as the next Fire Chief for Portland Fire & Rescue. Chief Boone has been with Portland Fire & Rescue for 24 years, rising through the ranks from entry-level firefighter. Chief Boone has spent the majority of her career in emergency operations before transitioning into assignments as the Bureau’s Safety Chief, Logistics Deputy Chief, and currently, the Division Chief of Medical Services and Training. 

“Chief Boone impressed our interview panels with her commitment to community, her technical knowledge, her passion for the fire service, and her leadership style,” says Commissioner Hardesty. “Chief Boone is well-respected throughout the bureau and we have a great collaborative relationship. I know that she has the vision and experience to lead the bureau as it takes on new challenges. I am confident that she will make sure our city is safe and cared for under her watch.”

In 1995, Chief Boone became the first African-American female firefighter to enter the ranks of Portland Fire & Rescue since its inception in 1883 and will become the first African-American Fire Chief for the City of Portland. 

Chief Boone was raised in Northeast Portland and still calls the City of Portland her home. She attended Lincoln High School and excelled as an athlete, earning all-state and all-American honors in track and field. She earned an athletic scholarship to Boise State University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education. While completing her student teaching at Marshall High School, she had a chance encounter with a Fire Inspector who encouraged her to test for Portland Fire & Rescue’s first firefighter apprenticeship program.

“I am deeply honored to be the next Fire Chief of Portland Fire & Rescue, a bureau I hold in high esteem because of the men and women who serve with honor, integrity, and sacrifice.” says Chief Boone. “My mission has always been caring for the city where I was raised. I am committed to ensuring that our responsiveness and our professionalism live up to the highest ideals of service, integrity, and equity.”

When Commissioner Hardesty first took office, she planned to execute a national search for the fire bureau’s next chief. After receiving feedback from the members of the bureau and meeting department personnel, she decided to start with an internal search. “It was clear that there were many talented leaders within Portland Fire & Rescue already and I wanted to put my focus there,” she says. Commissioner Hardesty believes interim directors should not be in the running for permanent positions as it affects the candidate pool and the process. Deputy Chief Ryan Gillespie was selected as the interim chief with the understanding that he would not apply for the permanent position. “Chief Gillespie did an excellent job as interim chief. He managed the bureau during a time of extreme transition with grace and professionalism. I thank him for his leadership,” says Commissioner Hardesty.

Chiefs Boone and Gillespie will work together on a transition plan. A swearing in ceremony for Chief Boone is planned for the beginning of August.

Fire Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty Names Ryan Gillespie Interim Chief

This morning Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty offered the post of interim fire chief to Deputy Chief Ryan Gillespie and he accepted this offer. 

Chief Gillespie will begin this post Feb. 1 after he returns from vacation. Chief Mike Myers has agreed to stay on an extra week, through the first week of February, to help Chief Gillespie with this transition.

Since Chief Myers made his announcement, Commissioner Hardesty had the opportunity to meet with many leaders from the bureau. “All of these leaders are impressive in their own way. I would have felt confident assigning any one of them the role of interim chief,” she said. “The one caveat I made to those who met with me is that the interim chief will be ineligible to be the next chief. It is my experience that allowing an interim to compete in the process provides an unfair advantage and discourages others from applying.”

Commissioner Hardesty says that Chief Gillespie impressed her with his knowledge of the bureau, his experience working in various divisions, and his support of Chief Myers’s vision. She noted that Chief Gillespie has been an early and ardent advocate on equity and can speak confidently and intelligently on the issue. Commissioner Hardesty also consulted with union leadership and they, too, support Chief Gillespie as interim chief.

Gillespie is currently assigned to Medical Services & Training Division. Projects and responsibilities in this assignment include: PF&R hiring and promotional processes, Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT), health and wellness program, EMS innovations, workplace assessment executive team, PF&R equity committee.

Chief Gillespie has been with PF&R since 1998 and has worked up the ranks from firefighter to deputy chief. He spent most of his emergency operations time as a firefighter, lieutenant, captain and battalion chief at fire stations in North and Northeast Portland. In addition, Chief Gillespie has worked at different ranks within PF&R’s training division with the responsibility of training and mentoring new PF&R recruits.

“One of my proud accomplishments has been working with Chief Myers and his team over the last 2 ½ years to evaluate PF&R’s culture, strengths, and weakness and to implement change to strengthen and improve the workplace and the services we provide to the community,” says Gillespie. “Chief Myers is leaving us with a legacy with which PF&R can continue to positively impact our community through his vision and innovation. I am excited for this opportunity to work closely with Commissioner Hardesty, the Executive Team from PF&R, and community members to continue Chief Myers’ vision until a permanent fire chief can be hired.”

Says Chief Mike Myers about Chief Gillespie: “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.”