The five Santa Barbara County supervisors took turns on Tuesday heaping praise upon outgoing Fire Chief Michael Dyer, who retired on January 16 after 36 years in public safety, the last five-plus of which were spent heading the department.
Dyer came aboard in August 2009 during hard financial times. Now, the department, with a $60 million budget, faces a solid fiscal future thanks in large part to a property-tax shift spearheaded by Dyer in 2012 that put more money toward County Fire. “You’ve taken a good department and brought it to greatness,” said Supervisor Salud Carbajal. “You’re going to be sorely missed.”
Last week, the supervisors unanimously appointed Deputy Chief Eric Peterson — a 28-year department veteran — to fill Dyer’s shoes starting on February 2. (Dyer is staying on as Interim Chief in the meantime.) Peterson bestowed a retirement badge upon “great boss” Dyer. “You’re going to be a tough act to follow, but I’m very much looking forward to the challenge,” he said.
Supervisor Doreen Farr, in addressing Dyer, said it was a “testament” to his success as chief that his replacement is from within the 258-person department. When hiring department heads, Farr said, “We’re always looking for somebody who we consider the total package. From Day One, you were always the total package.” Supervisor Steve Lavagnino expressed similar gratitude to Dyer. “Your presence is going to be felt in this county and this department for many years to come,” he said.
Dyer, who held every sworn position within the Los Angeles County Fire Department prior to heading north, was appointed chief in August 2009, in the wake of the Tea and Jesusita fires. He announced his retirement plans last August. “This is going to be harder than I thought,” he said, looking around the room on Tuesday. He thanked the supervisors for giving him “the opportunity of a lifetime,” his wife, Vickie, for her support, and the “brave men and women” of the department for their work. “It has been an honor to serve with you,” he said.