Fire Chief Rick Hoppes to step down after 33 years service

A search is under way to replace retiring Salisbury Fire Chief Richard Hoppes.

The city is advertising for a new Fire Chief to replace the retiring Rick Hoppes, whose 30 years of service evoked glowing comments from Mayor Jake Day.

“I am grateful for his commitment to the city, his loyalty, his dedication to his employees. He is a person who is always interested in improvement and learning about leadership and developing as a leader and a manager of people,” Day said.

Retirement at his level is not mandatory but financially beneficial, since there is a maximum benefit cap at 30 years. Including volunteer time, Hoppes has been with the agency 33 years.

“Rick is one of those unique characters who is truly a student for life, always trying to learn and improve,” Day said.

“He brings his expertise to the table, but he is never done learning. Rick is a very smart man. He is an intellectual. He likes to learn. He likes to discuss and debate and challenge himself and challenge conventional wisdom.

“He is a data guy, an incredibly analytical person. He is really going to be missed here as fire chief,” Day said.

Hoppes, 54, was acting chief from 2009 to 2011 and again from 2012 to January of 2013, when he was appointed to the top post.

“It’s both exciting and bittersweet to retire. I have mixed emotions. It’s difficult. There are so many events I will never forget. I’d like to write some memoirs after awhile but nobody would believe it. You get to witness things you hope no normal civilian would ever have to witness,” Hoppes told the Salisbury Independent this week.

Because he doesn’t have the personality to stay at home and relax in retirement, Hoppes said he will continue working.

“I don’t think I will be a fire chief unless somebody wants one bad enough. I’ve done some consulting work. I’ve done some teaching, so I’m not sure where I’ll end up,” he said.

The joy of the job, he said, is “fighting different fires every day in the chief’s office.”

“Part of it is the being a firefighter and emergency medical technician for so long, you get in the business of serving folks. In those capacities you directly serve Mr. and Mrs. Smith and that’s the rewarding part of the job.

“In the chief’s office, the rewarding part of the job is making sure the folks who are physically serving Mr. and Mrs. Smith have all the tools and resources necessary to do their jobs and planning to make sure everyone is kept safe. It’s a different challenge,” he said.

Certainly, he has endured stressful situations, but he called them “part of being in charge and being the boss.”

“Not many people get to say these words, but I have truly loved coming to work each and every day,” Hoppes said.

“I still love what we do. I have a passion for what we do. I love the fire department and the city of Salisbury. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been in this service for so long,” he said.

Hoppes, who, with his wife of 34 years, Beth, have three children, will join what Day called “the leadership team” in the search for a new chief. Interviewing will be in late May and city officials hope to have someone hired by June.

Currently, the position is being advertised, offering an annual salary of $89,655 to $98,986 plus excellent benefits.

The ad, which describes Salisbury as “situated between the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean … with a population of over 32,000,” is for an energetic and detail-oriented leader with a track record of career accomplishments.

Top candidates must “thrive in a robust, fast-paced and complex environment and be creative, strategic and able to implement best practices for a data-driven deployment of resources,” the ad states.

Comprising 73 career employees and 120 volunteer members, the fire department covers 48 square miles and is organized into the sections of administration, operations and fire and life safety-prevention.

Services are provided from three fire stations and one headquarters. Equipment includes five engines, two quints, one aerial tower, a heavy rescue, two brush units, five specialty units, six ambulances, a fire suppression rescue boat and fleet of support vehicles.

In 2017, the department responded to 13,440 calls for service including 3,516 fire and 9,924 emergency medical service calls.


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