Eric Peterson, a 28-year veteran of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department currently serving as second-in-command, was unanimously chosen by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to be the next chief.
Peterson, taking over for retiring chief Michael Dyer, started his career with the department in 1987 and rose through the ranks in the years since, holding the positions of fire captain, battalion chief, division chief, and fire marshal before being named deputy chief. For 10 years, he also headed the firefighters’ union.
A 51-year-old married father of five-year-old twins, Peterson beat out two other candidates for the job. He will manage a 258-person department with a $60 million budget and 16 fire stations. Dyer, who is officially retiring on January 16 after 36 years in public safety and five-plus years as chief, will stay on as the interim chief until Peterson takes over on February 2.
“I’m excited because this feels like a really good time to be fire chief,” Peterson said. “The economic situation is improving. We’ve got a huge amount of talent coming up through the ranks right now, and I’ve got a Board of Supervisors that is very supportive of public safety both now and historically.” Peterson also said he’s looking forward to conveying to department personnel “how proud of them I am and how excited I am for the future.”
Peterson, who is finishing up a master’s degree in public administration from California State University-Northridge, will earn a $180,000 salary as chief. Dyer, who praised Peterson as a possible successor when he announced his retirement plans in August, earned $201,925 in his last year as chief.