For five years as Bonita Springs fire chief, Phil Kinsey has dealt with a dwindling budget, the occasional political dust-up and sleepless nights concerned about the city and its firefighters.
At the end of January 2013, Kinsey will leave all that behind, retiring after a nearly 24-year tenure at the Bonita Springs Fire Control and Rescue District.
Kinsey, 51, publicly announced his retirement at Tuesday’s fire commission meeting. Board members approved the promotion of Assistant Chief Joe Daigle, 43, to the top spot at the meeting.
“We’ve gotten through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and the department’s better off than when I got it,” Kinsey said Wednesday. “So I think it’s just time to go.”
Since taking over at the district’s helm in April 2007, Kinsey has navigated through cutbacks forced by falling tax revenues. He’s seen the district’s staff cut from about 125 to 100, though he says the remaining staff makes up “a premier department.”
“I’m very proud to be associated with it and the people that work here,” Kinsey said. “This is a very professional agency, and I’ve tried to do my best.”
Kinsey said he told the commission chairman, Steve Lohan, of his plans to retire in October, but he held off publicly announcing the decision to avoid affecting the November elections to the board. The timing, Kinsey said, “is completely irrelevant” to accusations of nepotism in the hiring of nine firefighters made by a commissioner in August.
Daigle’s appointment caps a nearly 20-year ascent through the department’s ranks, from probationary firefighter to chief. Daigle will take over a $26.3-million budget, with a few open positions to fill.
“The biggest advantage I have is the knowledge of every position,” Daigle said. “Chief Kinsey’s are some big shoes to fill, and I look forward to the challenges coming ahead.”