Adam K. Thiel was officially sworn in as Alexandria's new Fire Chief Monday afternoon during ceremonies at Fire Station 204 on Powhatan Street in North Old Town. For Thiel it symbolized "coming home" to Northern Virginia from a two-and-a-half year stint as deputy chief of emergency services for the City of Goodyear, Ariz.
"I appreciate having this ceremony in a fire station. That is very important to me," Thiel told the crowd of firefighters, fire department personnel, city and state officials, and well wishers, assembled in the engine bay area of the headquarters station.
"I'm convinced my choice years ago to get into this business was the right one for me. I credit my parents and the fire department personnel I have worked with over the years for my success," he said. In the audience were his mother and stepfather, Annie and Jerry Rex of Gloucester, Va.
"This day is still somewhat of a surreal moment in time for me. However, as staff told me this morning, during my first official meeting with them, it will get very real, very fast," Thiel said.
That was buttressed by City Manager James K. Hartmann during his remarks welcoming Thiel to Alexandria and his new position. "We are going to expand on all the things of the past and move to the future," he said.
"A prime example is our new fire house in Potomac Yard. It will be a national model with its 65 units of affordable housing. We are now taking this department to a value-based organization," Hartmann said.
"We had a host of candidates for this job. There were 90 questions submitted by various city personnel which were used in the interview process. I'm sure each of the candidates found the process stressful. But, that's what we wanted — to see how they would react under stress," he said.
"In the end I had to make the decision. Chief Thiel had all the qualifications we were looking for," Hartmann said.
Hartmann also thanked Deputy Chief Russell Middleton, who has served as acting chief since the resignation of Chief Gary Mesaris to accept the position of chief of the Metropolitan Airport Authority Fire Department this past March. "The efforts of everyone in the department over the past five months has been remarkable. Everyone has truly put their heart into the regional concept of cooperation," he said.
Thiel also received the support of Mayor William D. Euille. "We will back you all the way. We have a long history of fire fighting in this city going all the way back to George Washington," Euille said.
"We will continue to deliver the first class fire service our citizens are accustomed to because Alexandria has the best fire department in America," said Euille, recognizing several chiefs from other area jurisdictions who attended the ceremony.
Virginia's Secretary of Public Safety, John Marshall, representing the Governor's Office, also offered remarks praising Thiel for his service. Prior to taking the position in Arizona Thiel served as executive director of the Virginia Department of Fire Programs following his 2002 appointment by former Gov. Mark Warner.
"When Adam was notified that he had been chosen for this position he called me and said ‘I'm coming home,’" Marshall said.
Thiel was officially sworn in by Clerk of the Circuit Court Edward Semonian. Following the ceremony there was a reception in the engine bay for those in attendance.