OCEANSIDE — Oceanside Fire Chief Terry Garrison resigned Oct. 22, after two years on the job and, perhaps coincidently, a series of unsatisfactory negotiations between the fire department and the city. Garrison declined to talk about the reason for his resignation, and has not confirmed or denied that his resignation is influenced by the recent council majority decision to cut fire department positions and consider reducing ambulance services.
Mayor Jim Wood said the council majority vote by Councilmen Jerry Kern, Jack Feller and Rocky Chavez to overturn a tentative agreement between the firefighters union and the city in July — that cut a battalion chief, and two fire captain positions — created tension in an already strained relationship between the fire department and the city.
Wood added that recommendations made earlier this year by Kern to outsource ambulance services and by Feller to convert the site of the firefighter training grounds into a wastewater transfer station did not demonstrate support for the fire department.
Wood speculates the second round of fire department budget cuts in October and the proposed brown out of one ambulance likely squeezed resources to the point that Garrison might have felt he did not have sufficient resources to get the job done.
During council budget discussions in September, Garrison voiced his opposition to fire department cuts. He said he was told he must come up with department budget cuts, but did not recommend following through with cutting ambulance services. “It absolutely will have a direct impact on customer service,” Garrison said. “Closing of an ambulance will definitely delay critical transportation of a patient to the hospital.”
City Manager Peter Weiss said that while there are pressing budget challenges, his understanding is that Garrison will be moving back home to Phoenix for personal reasons. “He is giving family issue a higher priority and moving back to Phoenix to deal with them,” Weiss said.
Garrison is recognized as a valued employee by the city manager and mayor. Weiss credits Garrison for building a strong management team within the fire department during his job as chief.
Wood commends Garrison for the experience he brings in training and fighting two story fires and said Garrison will be difficult to replace.
Garrison will stay on as fire chief through Nov. 30. There has not yet been discussion of his replacement Weiss said.