Bremerton terminates fire chief without explanation

David Schmitt was hired by the city last year.

Bremerton has terminated its fire chief, according to a press release sent from the mayor’s office Wednesday.

The statement was emailed from Mayor Greg Wheeler’s assistant, Elaine Valencia, at 4:47 p.m.

“I have terminated the employment of Fire Chief David Schmitt without cause effective today,” the release signed by Wheeler reads. “I would like to thank him for his contributions to the Fire Department and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

Schmitt was hired in March 2017 to lead the Bremerton Fire Department, which has a staff of 59. He was appointed by then-mayor Patty Lent with the support of the city council.

His hiring followed a nationwide search aided by a $26,000 consultant, the Kitsap News Group reported.

Mayor Lent said at the time that Schmitt, a 30-year veteran of the Burbank, Calif. fire department, was selected partly because of his expertise in firefighter training.

Schmitt was one of the city’s highest-paid employees, with a salary band listed between $129,228 – $157,452, according to city budget documents.

The mayor’s office declined to comment further on the decision.

Assistant Fire Chief Patrick McGanney has been named interim chief for the second time in two years.

The 28-year veteran of the department held the role last year during the search for a replacement for Al Duke, who retired after 20 years.

McGanney said he received a call from the mayor yesterday with the news.

“It wasn’t expected, that’s for sure,” he said. “You have as much information as the rest of us do.”

“The fire department’s going to continue to run and respond to 911 calls like we were doing yesterday,” he added. “That’s not going to change. We just have to deal with the absence of the chief. And we will do that.”