Santa Monica Fire Chief Scott Ferguson has announced his pending resignation from SMFD to take a position with the Murrieta Fire Department.
Ferguson, whose last day in Santa Monica will be May 10, said the change was prompted by a desire to balance his working responsibilities with the needs of his family.
“As to why leave, quite simply, my personal and professional life has been a bit out of whack lately,” he said. “I have reached a point in my life when my family deserves more of my time. It is totally on me, but I have not done a very good job of balancing the commitments of the job with the most important people in my life. My third grandbaby is expected to arrive in a little over a week; and the first two are more familiar with me on Facebook and Skype than they are in person. That has to change.”
Ferguson came to Santa Monica in 2010 after previously serving as chief in Manhattan Beach. He has also served as chief in Peoria, Arizona, and Vancouver, Washignton. He began his fire service career in 1982 as a part-time fire fighter in Federal Way, Washington, continuing the family tradition started by his father, who was a fire chief, and brother, who is also a firefighter.
When he came to Santa Monica, Ferguson said he was excited to meet the challenges of the job, and he echoed that sentiment about his new position.
“It would be inaccurate for someone to be left with the idea that our move is about leaving,” he said. “Truthfully, Murrieta is facing its own set of pretty cool challenges. The recession hit them hard, but the management team and council are as hungry to expand the economy as any I have seen. I liken the community to a painting (whose) landscape has yet to be finished. There has been a tremendous effort targeting start-up tech firms, health care and a number of other ventures that will expand their job options and strengthen their tax base.”
Murrieta Fire Chief Matt Shobert retired in 2014 following a debilitating accident.
Shobert and a crew of local firefighters were checking a commercial brush-clearing operation for potential fire hazards when he was hit in the face by a rock thrown more than 50 yards by a commercial mower.
“Odds are (Murrieta firefighters) are a little nervous about a new chief arriving, in particular one that comes from such a remarkable place, but I am confident that once they see how eager my family is to become part of their family, all will be good,” said Ferguson.
Chief Ferguson said he would remember his time in Santa Monica by the friends and relationships he made here.
“I am proud of the relationships I have developed in both my role as fire chief and as a person that cares about the people here,” he said. “I have memories of losing more than I won at the annual Westside Shelter Bowl-a-thon; wearing a wig (more than once … or twice) at Rotary events, Red Tie Affairs, New Heroes Events, and sitting on a number of remarkable boards and committees. Through all of it I have reams of memories where we made a difference in the lives of others and had a lot of fun doing it. Pretty cool.”
Interim Santa Monica City Manager Elaine Polachek praised Ferguson’s legacy.
“For the past four years, our City has benefited from Chief Ferguson’s leadership, fire expertise and the integrity that is ingrained in his work,” she said in a statement. “He committed himself to his department, his colleagues and our community. Scott will be missed and Murrieta is lucky to have him as their fire chief.”
Under Ferguson, SMFD achieved a Class 1 rating from the Insurance Service Office (ISO), a ranking achieved by only 12 departments in California and less than 1 percent of all departments nationwide. He also oversaw the creation of the joint dispatch program, planning for Fire Station No. 1 and preparations for the Expo line.
Ferguson said he will miss working with the department’s 108 responders and 15 civilian staff.
“It has been an honor to work alongside the men and women of this department. Santa Monica Fire has to be the biggest small department in the country; it embodies all aspects of a metro-sized agency wrapped in a tight 8.3-square-mile package,” he said. “While the pace is incredible and the work diverse, the members give an incredible amount of time, energy, and passion to making this a safer place to live and work.”
According to Ferguson, he is working with city staff to develop a transition plan that will determine short-term leadership while the city hires a full-time replacement.