Newport Beach fire chief retires after 33-year career

Fire Chief Scott Poster worked his final shift Monday as he retired after four years in Newport Beach.

Poster, 59, was appointed chief in 2012 after a 29-year career with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. He joined L.A. County in 1983 and worked his way up the ranks, eventually becoming a deputy chief.

“Serving our residents and visitors has been very rewarding,” Poster said in a statement Monday. “And I look back with amazement at all that the men and women of the NBFD have accomplished. ... Our beaches are protected by the best lifeguards in the country. Our firefighters are highly skilled and provide the best customer service of any fire department I’ve seen. We have an outstanding Community Emergency Response Team and we are on the leading edge of emergency medical services in the state of California.”

In an interview Tuesday, Poster said he’s turning 60 in a month and that since his wife has been retired for a year, he decided it’s time to hang up his hat. He said he’s looking forward to spending time with his two grandchildren, whom his wife watches twice a week.

“Most fire chiefs rotate out in about five years,” Poster said. “It seemed like a good natural time to leave.”

During his time in Newport Beach, Poster spearheaded the reorganization of the Fire Department and established a training section. He also oversaw expansion of the department’s paramedic services and developed an emergency medical services division.

“The paramedic service in our city is much better than it was five years ago,” Poster said. “I hope the next chief continues that path of taking Newport Beach one step ahead in being the leader of the pack for emergency and fire services.”

Poster’s tenure wasn’t always smooth.

In December 2014, three senior members of the Fire Department sued the city, alleging age discrimination that they said began when Poster was hired.

The suit alleged that Poster accused the plaintiffs of “unacceptable” performance after giving them an overwhelming workload that was disproportionate to that of younger employees.

The city attorney’s office called the claims baseless, and the lawsuit was dismissed in May 2015, according to Orange County Superior Court records.

“Chief Poster’s legacy with Newport Beach is an important one,” City Manager Dave Kiff said in a statement. “He has led us through tough budget times as well as changes in the EMS system related to the Affordable Care Act [also known as Obamacare]. This led to a greater emphasis on integrating the fire/EMS service into the overall healthcare system, and no one was better at it than Chief Poster. I admire and respect him and wish him all the best in retirement.”

Poster’s salary and benefits package was $408,662 in 2015, according to Transparent California, a project of the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

It was not immediately clear how much he will receive from his California Public Employees’ Retirement System pension.

Newport Beach Assistant Fire Chief Chip Duncan takes over as acting chief, and Battalion Chief Jeff Boyles will serve as acting assistant fire chief for operations, according to a city news release.

City officials likely will decide early next year on a recruitment process to find the next chief, city spokeswoman Tara Finnigan said.

hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

Copyright © 2017, Daily Pilot

Updates

This article was originally posted at 11:15 a.m. Dec. 19.

It was updated at 4:25 p.m. Dec. 20 with Poster's comments Tuesday and information about the city's recruitment process.

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