Leawood thanks departing fire chief David Williams for service as deputy prepares for new role

Leawood Fire Chief David Williams' last day with the department is Thursday. He's led the city's fire department for seven years. Photo credit city of Leawood.

The Leawood City Council presented Fire Chief David Williams with an outstanding service award this week in advance of his retirement after seven and a half years leading the Leawood Fire Department.

Williams’ final day as chief is Thursday. At its Monday meeting, the council also unanimously approved the appointment of Deputy Chief of Administration Colin Fitzgerald as interim fire chief, effective Friday. The council is scheduled to vote at its March 16 meeting whether to name Fitzgerald as permanent fire chief.

Williams became Leawood’s fire chief in August 2012 after working for the North Kansas City Fire Department for 30 years, the last 10 of which were as chief.

“You have done so much in your short time here,” Mayor Peggy Dunn said at the meeting. “Seven years doesn’t seem near long enough to have accomplished everything you have with your great team.”

Williams said in an interview Tuesday that he was most gratified during his time as Leawood’s chief by the fire department’s international accreditation by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International in 2015, its Insurance Services Organization certification (ISO-1, the organization’s highest ranking) in 2016 and its paramedic program, which the department started in 2017.

“I was lucky enough to be selected as fire chief to come to Leawood,” he said at the meeting. “What a great way to finish my career with such a great fire department, a great governing body. You were always supportive. Being a fire chief takes a lot of energy.”

Patience also was an important ally during his time as chief, Williams said in the interview, “because government is slow on purpose.”

“You have to be present among the firefighters and city leaders and other department heads for them to ask questions or voice concerns, and just talk to them,” he said.

Williams is 62. He was born and raised in the Kansas City area and lives in Liberty. His retirement plans include traveling with his wife and spending more time with their granddaughters, “as much as they’ll let me.”

Fitzgerald looks ahead to future of department

Fitzgerald has been on Williams’ administrative staff since Williams started as chief, and Fitzgerald “did the lion’s share of the accreditation work.”

Colin Fitzgerald has been the deputy chief of administration for the department for about three years.

“I think he’s going to do a great job,” Williams said.

Fitzgerald started working for the Leawood Fire Department in January 2012, first as training chief, and became deputy chief of administration about three years ago. He had worked for the Lenexa Fire Department. He was a U.S. Air Force firefighter for four years.
Fitzgerald’s top priorities, should he be named as Leawood’s permanent chief, are to continually improve the department “while continuing to take care of our members and provide professional concern for our citizens.” The department’s international accreditation is due for renewal in August in Phoenix. Before then, a peer assessment team from around the nation will visit the department, review its operations and make its recommendation to the accrediting commission.

Another priority is “to provide a higher level of medical care for our citizens,” he said, and the department is preparing for its first citizens fire academy. Fitzgerald praised the council for its support of the department.

“The governing body is super supportive and we’re well funded,” he said.

The department employs 55 people, including about 50 firefighters, he said. The department probably will need to grow in the next few years by adding alternative response vehicles for medical calls, which would free up fire trucks, and possibly by eventually adding a fire station in the Town Center area.

Fitzgerald is 48. He was born in Topeka and raised in Valley Falls, Kansas. He lives in Gardner.

At Monday’s council meeting, five councilmembers, including Ward 4 Councilman James Azeltine, who participated by phone, were present, which constituted a quorum. Ward 2 Councilmembers Mary Larson and Jim Rawlings and Ward 3 Councilman Chuck Sipple were absent.