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City Names New Fire Chief

Gary A. Mesaris, fire chief in Fairfax City for the past 12 years, has been selected to head the Alexandria Fire Department starting June 9.

Prior to Fairfax City, Mesaris served with Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department for 22 years, including three years as deputy fire chief. He replaces Thomas Hawkins, who retired in December 2002, after nine years as chief.

In announcing the appointment, City Manager Philip Sunderland said, "Chief Mesaris brings critical firefighting and management experience to the City of Alexandria. He will be an outstanding leader of our department and a wonderful addition to the Alexandria community."

Mesaris, in accepting the appointment, said, "I'm very excited about it and look forward to working with the department and in the City of Alexandria." During his career with Fairfax County, he rose through the ranks to become second in command of an organization with more than 1,400 employees.

DURING HIS tenure with Fairfax City, Mesaris was a member of the City Manager's Leadership Team and supervised all aspects of the Fire Department. In that capacity he interacted with Alexandria's Fire Department in the regional cooperative/support program.

A native of the area, Mesaris lives with his wife, Tammy, and their two children: Matthew, 12, and Meredith, 10, in Herndon. "It's going to be a commute for awhile," he said.

Interim Chief James Gower, who withdrew from consideration prior to the interviews, praised Mesaris as "a great choice for our department and the city. I look forward to seeing him come on board and working with him. I've known Gary for more than 25 years."

Gower is in his 39th year with the Alexandria Fire Department, having started April 21, 1965. He has spent his entire career here.

"I have two daughters and two new grandchildren, and I want to be able to spend more time with them. One lives in Albany and the other in Boston," he explained.

"The job of chief is very demanding, and I felt that you should be able to make a long-term commitment if you’re going to take the job. I plan to remain deputy chief of operations," Gower said.

"I also think it’s very good that someone from this area was chosen, rather than someone unfamiliar with the territory. All the departments in the region, and particularly Northern Virginia, have developed a coordinated working relationship. Gary has already been involved with this and is familiar with the structure," Gower emphasized.

Mesaris, 56, earned a master of science degree with a concentration in public administration from George Washington University. His bachelor's degree is from George Mason University in fire administration and technology.