<b>Schwartz Named New Fire Chief</b>
On Friday, County Manager Ron Carlee announced that after a two-month long review process, he had picked Assistant Fire Chief James Schwartz to become the next Chief of the Arlington County Fire Department.
Schwartz will step into the role of Fire Chief on June 28, following the retirement of current Chief Edward Plaugher. Plaugher announced he would retire after 10 years as head of the department.
“To be selected is an honor I’m proud to accept,” said Schwartz. “Ed Plaugher put us on a good path for success. I’m going to continue what he put in place.”
As chief, Schwartz said he would focus on professional development for fire fighters, developing a strategic plan for the Fire Department’s future, with a special look at the county’s emergency medical services. “EMS is more and more being called upon as an important component of the overall health care system,” he said.
<b>SCHWARTZ JOINED</b> the Arlington Fire Department in 1984 as a line fire fighter, and over a two-decade career moved up through the ranks to become Assistant Fire Chief. Along the way, he also became the first non-officer to serve as an instructor at the county’s Fire Academy.
In 1998, Schwartz was named Assistant Chief of Operations, putting him in charge of all fire, EMS, hazardous materials and technical rescue response activities.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Schwartz was the county’s incident commander on the scene at the Pentagon, working with Plaugher to coordinate the regional response to the terrorist attack. In April 2003, he was named acting director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management, an office Schwartz created.
But Schwartz downplayed his work on Sept. 11, and his work in the county office. “It isn’t just a snapshot in time. It’s really the last 20 years with the Fire Department that’s prepared me,” he said.
When he announced his retirement, Plaugher said he would urge Carlee to hire his successor inside the ranks of the department. “I think there’s a remarkable set of talent inside this organization,” he said.
<b>AFTER CARLEE</b> conducted a survey of the Fire Department’s top brass, rank and file fire fighters and community leaders, he followed Plaugher’s advice, limiting the search for a chief to department leadership.
“What’s striking … is how community leaders expressed an appreciation for the depth of leadership in our fire department,” he told the County Board Saturday. “Our fire department really has several senior leaders.”
Unlike Plaugher, whose father and brother were also fire fighters, and who came up through the ranks of the Fairfax Fire Department, Schwartz said he is the only in his family working in public safety. “I’m one of seven children, but I’m the only one in the fire department,” he said. “My brother was a police officer for a number of years, but he became a lawyer.”
Schwartz is a graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in fire science administration. He and his wife Susan have two children, Elizabeth, 10, and Holden, 7.
<b>Police Release Sketch in Abduction Attempt</b>
Detectives from the Arlington Police Department’s Special Victims Unit are looking for information on a man connected with an attempted abduction that occurred on Wednesday, May 12, in the Bluemont neighborhood.
At approximately 3 p.m. that day, a 65-year-old woman working as a babysitter was walking with a 14-month-old child on the W&OD bike trail, just north of Route 50, when she was approached by the white male. After a short conversation, the man began pulling the babysitter and the child toward Four Mile Run. The woman freed herself and fled with the child. Police officers, including a K-9 unit, later searched the area for the suspect.
The suspect is described as a white male in his 20s, approximately 5-feet-5-inches to 5-feet-7-inches tall, weighing 150-160 pounds, with short blond hair. He was last seen wearing a white t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up and brown or khaki sweatpants. The man also has a tattoo on his left upper arm. Police developed a composite sketch based on information provided by witnesses.
Anyone who sees this suspect or has any information about his whereabouts should immediately call police at 911. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Solvers at 800-673-2777. Callers to Crime Solvers do not have to give their names, do not need to testify in court, and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.