Scott Ferguson officially began his tenure as Santa Monica’s new Fire Chief this week. He is spending much of his time in meetings, getting to know his department and his new city.
Becoming Santa Monica’s Fire Chief has been a career-long dream-job. He didn’t even apply anywhere else. He said the high energy of the community, the support it has for its police and firefighters and the overall reputation of the City were the strong aspects that drew him to Santa Monica.
Since arriving, he said he has received nothing but warm welcomes from everyone he has met. There was the welcome he received at former Fire Chief Jim Hone’s retirement dinner and there was also the greeting he got on his first day from Rod Gould, the City Manager who is also new in town.
“Scott will be the right person to lead the department,” said Gould when Ferguson was hired. “His references and all who interviewed him are most impressed with his skill, energy, leadership, and integrity.”
Although he’s not living here yet; he has been waking up as early as 4:30 a.m. to commute from Redondo. His wife of two years, Maria, is looking for a place to rent that is as close to Santa Monica as possible, if not in it.
“This is a great opportunity for us,” said Ferguson of Santa Monica. “The fit is right for us.”
Ferguson left Manhattan Beach to take the position in Santa Monica. Although he said he loved his previous city, Santa Monica is more similar to his first two cities, in terms of demographics and structure. The first, Vancouver, WA where Ferguson was raised, has two freeways and a large body of water (the Columbia River) equating similar hazards as those in Santa Monica.
Ferguson described his second city – Peoria, AZ, – as progressive and booming, like Santa Monica. Although the city has a larger population, Santa Monica’s density makes the two Fire Departments comparable in size.
Manhattan beach, which is more residential than Santa Monica and has no major freeway, is similar to Santa Monica only in terms of having high expectations and being very supportive of its fire department, Ferguson said.
During his tenure as Fire Chief in Manhattan Beach, Ferguson completed a strategic plan for the department, refined professional development for its members and forged relationships with regional stakeholders in emergency response and preparedness.
Where Santa Monica differs from all three is it’s huge daily influx of people, he said, which always has a potential for his department’s attention.
But he thinks his two most immediate challenges are gaining the trust of his new department and the impacts a poor economy has on his department.
“It’s important that [Santa Monica’s Firefighters] understand that I respect their roles and responsibilities and what they bring to the table,” Ferguson said. “ And the more they get to know me, they will then understand what I bring to the table.”
Ferguson said what is happening in the economy and how it can impact service levels is something that he shares with every fire chief, whether they are new or old.
“How do you balance what you have with what you need and what you can get from the economy ,” he said.
But they are all challenges he said he is ready to face and looks forward to becoming a part of the community.
“I hope to live up to the standard Chief Hone set for this great City,” said Ferguson.