Alexandria Fire Chief Gary A. Mesaris announced his resignation Monday after 43 months on the job. He will become fire chief of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority on March 10.
"This was one of those special opportunities that come along very rarely. I took a look at it and decided to go for it," Mesaris said.
"This position will be very different from all my other years of experience. It is based on aviation and doesn't have the peripheral problems associated with local government. It is also based on a different kind of readiness. When something happens at an airport it is usually major," Mesaris said.
Mesaris came to Alexandria in June 2003 after serving 13 years as Fire Chief in Fairfax City. Prior to that he served for 22 years with Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department, rising through the ranks from firefighter to Chief Deputy Fire Chief.
"We regret that Chief Mesaris is leaving the City of Alexandria. But, we recognize that he has been offered a very challenging public safety position overseeing the protection of two of the nation's major airports. He has been a key member of the City's management team and we wish him well in his new position," said Alexandria City Manager James K. Hartmann.
"I am proud of this department's accomplishments during my tenure as Fire Chief. And, I am confident the Alexandria Fire Department will continue to function at a level and with a reputation that is sought and envied by many, but achieved by only a few," Mesaris said.
Under his leadership, the Department established the Emergency Preparedness Division, increased minority and women representation, implemented an inventory and equipment accountability system, and won City Council approval to build the City's first new fire station in more than 30 years. The proposed Potomac Yard station will combine affordable housing units with a fire station in the same structure to maximize public benefit from public buildings.
Other departmental accomplishments have included an enhanced emergency medical service delivery capability, the addition of several state-of-the-art response vehicles, a new fire boat, light-and-air units, a medical support unit, and specially equipped trailers for terrorism response operations. In 2005 Department personnel participated as part of Northern Virginia's Regional Response Team to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.
"I wish him the best and congratulate the Airport Authority for gaining his expertise. He has always performed his role with great professionalism. That's why we have a very fire safe City," said Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille.
Upon Mesaris' departure, Deputy Chief Russell Middleton will serve as acting chief until a successor is named, according to the City Public Information Office. In addition to being advertised internally a nationwide search will be initiated, PIO confirmed.
Mesaris' departure is the latest in a series of high visibility personnel losses through resignation experienced by the City within the last six to eight months. "With all the other items we presently have on the table, including the budget and other vacancies in Code Enforcement and Planning and Zoning, I don't expect we will fill this position for at least four to six months," Euille said.