Chief of Department
2001 - 2004
Mayor Brown introduces Mario Trevino as the Fire Commission choice for Chief of Department
S.F.'S NEW FIRE CHIEF IS FIRST HIRED FROM OUTSIDE
BROWN GOES WITH COMMISSION'S PICK
San Francisco got its first fire chief from outside the storied 135-year- old department's ranks yesterday.
Mario H. Trevino, Mayor Willie Brown's choice to head the department, has been chief of the 492-employee Las Vegas Fire Department since 1997. Before that, he was deputy chief in Seattle, where he first went to work as a firefighter while a 20-year-old student at Seattle University.
In appointing Trevino, who will succeed the department's first African American chief, Bob Demmons, Brown said, "He is the first outside chief, but he is as credentialed as any person who's ever headed the department." Trevino, 48, was the first choice of the Fire Commission, which conducted a nationwide search after Demmons retired last summer. Demmons, named chief by Brown the day the mayor was sworn into office in January 1996, had played a key role earlier in his career in the federal lawsuit that forced the department to hire more minorities and women.
The other two finalists were San Diego Chief Robert Osby and San Francisco's interim chief, Paul Tabacco, who ranked third on the commission's list presented to Brown.
Tabacco will remain in place until Trevino takes office July 1, Brown said.
"The process was arduous," said Trevino, who worked his way up to deputy chief in Seattle before leaving for the Las Vegas chief's job five years ago. "I'm happy to be standing here. San Francisco is a premier city not just in the nation, but in the world."
Trevino, who Brown aides said would be paid about $165,000 a year, said he understood some would question choosing an outsider to head an 1,800-person department known for its insular ways. "It's a serious responsibility when you get brought in," he said at a City Hall press conference. "There are always serious questions about an outsider."
John Hanley, president of the San Francisco Firefighters Union Local 798, said he didn't think Trevino's outsider status would make much difference to the rank and file, whose two-year contract with the city expires June 30.
"Mayor Brown made the decision," he said. "This must have been the best candidate. We always cheer for the best candidate . . . Change is good."
Trevino, a native of Bellingham, Wash., has a degree in public administration from Seattle University.
"I thought it would be a fun job for a while," he said of becoming a firefighter while attending college, ". . . but I fell in love with the career. "
Trevino has had close calls as a firefighter, he recalled, remembering being trapped in a burning Seattle building for a few hours in his first year on the force. He also worked as a fire inspector, arson investigator, chief of paramedics and deputy chief.
During his tenure in Las Vegas, he faced issues similar to those confronting San Francisco. Las Vegas invested heavily in a new fire communications system, said Las Vegas fire spokesman Tim Szymanski, and the department -- which had always provided emergency medical treatment before transferring passengers to private ambulances -- now has its own fleet of ambulances to carry patients to hospitals.
New stations are being built with money from a $550 million bond issue championed by Trevino and passed by voters last year.
Trevino also replaced the city's fleet of white fire engines with new ones, all red, which is also San Francisco's traditional color.
A bachelor who said he liked to vacation in Hawaii every year, he was on Las Vegas Life magazine's list of the 10 most eligible bachelors last year, Szymanski said.
A less kindly view came from Dean Fletcher, president of the Las Vegas firefighters union. He said Trevino had been a breath of fresh air when he first became chief. "But he's sort of faded off in the last year or so," Fletcher said. "It was all about what he had done for us and the city."
Trevino last year was a finalist for the top job in Dallas, and Fletcher said he thought the chief's main interest during 2000 was finding a new job.
Trevino said the issues facing San Francisco's department -- excessive overtime costs, the paramedics' merger, the need to increase diversity -- weren't unique to the city.
He said he wouldn't be bringing others with him to top command posts.
"The answers will come from within the team . . ." he said. "Anything we can do to improve morale, we will pursue."
Trevino, who speaks Spanish, is either the first or second chief of Hispanic heritage in the city. Joseph Medina, chief under Mayor Frank Jordan, was the son of parents from Spain. Back in the early 1990s, when the city was still under federal court order to increase minority firefighter hiring, Medina's heritage became an issue, as Hispanic firefighters charged he really wasn't one of them.
Trevino's mother is from Mexico, and his father is from Texas.
Back to the Top