Fire chief announces retirement

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Littleton Fire Rescue Chief John Mullin announced his retirement today, four months after the firefighters’ association formally declared their lack of confidence in his leadership.

He announced his decision in an email to all Littleton city employees on the afternoon of Aug. 23:

“I want to thank (director of public works) Charlie Blosten for his wisdom in hiring me, for the friendship and support that I have enjoyed here and the great adventure that I experienced as a member of Littleton Fire Rescue.

I am retiring on April 1st, which will mark my 40th year. My last day at work will be December 31st.

Thanks for the memories.

Wishing you all the best.”

Joel Heinemann, president of the Littleton Firefighters Association, said the department is looking forward to a new start.

“We wish him well in the next chapter of his life,” he said. “We’re excited about moving forward with the future of the Littleton fire department with new leadership.”

He did call the timing of Mullin’s announcement suspect, given that South Metro Fire Rescue is expected to release next month its study on the feasibility of bringing LFR and its partners into its fold. The association feels that would be the best fix for a department that’s been under a lot of tension.

"The vote of no confidence was a distraction," said Mullin in a statement Aug. 24. "I am interested in what the South Metro study will present. In no way did either of those items influence my decision to retire. I turn 65 this October and will achieve 40 years in the fire service on April 1. I leave a wonderful, adventure-filled career on my terms."

City Manager Michael Penny in a statement praised Mullin for his dedicated service.

“Chief Mullin has dedicated years of his life to the betterment of this community and very much to the success of the organization,” said Penny. “The Chief wants to attain the 40-year status, which is very admirable and something to be incredibly proud of.

“As you’ve identified, there is a lot on the horizon. John has a few short-term goals which he would like to complete and believes can be done by the end of the year. Many of the other items are much longer term, and the chief and I are in agreement that the timing is good for a new leader to work through those. The timing is not tied to any reports or the vote of no confidence.”

The department has had its share of controversy in recent years. Response times and insurance rates were historically poor in Trailmark, though an intergovernmental agreement was reached this year with West MetroFire for coverage there. There’s also been conflict between LFR and its partners — Highlands Ranch Metro District and Littleton Fire Protection District — that led some to wonder if the partnership would be renewed in 2012.

“Once a proud and well-regarded emergency services provider, we have watched with dismay and disappointment as Littleton has been passed up by other metro fire departments,” wrote the association in an April 16 letter to City Manager Michael Penny. “It pains us to see how far we have fallen under the leadership of John Mullin.”

The South Metro study is the fourth of its kind since 2008.

In 2012, Emergency Services Consulting International recommended an eventual merger with Englewood’s department, but no real steps have been taken toward that end. In 2011, the two partners paid for their own study but have refused to release it, saying it was never completed. In 2008, the city partnered with LFPD and HRMD to hire Organizational Effectiveness Consulting. That study contained 108 recommendations, very few of which were ever implemented due to budget constraints.

“Littleton is not as stable a fire department as other traditional fire departments,” said Heinemann, because most of its service area is outside of the city proper. HRMD and LFPD are both substantially larger in area and population, he notes, so the smallest entity is governing the larger ones.

Mullin has indicated in the past that he might retire soon, but he didn’t directly answer the question in June.

“We have enacted things I believe will bring improvements in communication among command and employees, and I’m looking forward to seeing that success,” he said then.

When Penny hired Police Chief Doug Stephens in June, he afforded the police-officers association substantial input. Heinemann said he hopes LFA will get the same consideration during what he expects will be a national search.

“It’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to work better together, and we’ll take some of the blame for that,” said Heinemann. “It’s just unfortunate that Mullin wasn’t able to move Littleton forward at all. We’re excited to start something new.”

Mullin began his fire service with Littleton Fire Rescue in 1974, holding the ranks of firefighter, paramedic, lieutenant, captain, training officer and battalion chief. He accepted the position of chief of The Woodlands Fire Department inTexas in 1998. He kept that position for six years, then returned to LFRe in 2004 to assume the chief’s job. He’s served on the Colorado Fire Chiefs Executive Board and represented that organization on the State of Colorado Hazardous Materials Volunteer Certification Board. He’s also been the Colorado vice president of the Missouri Valley Division’s executive board.