San Jose Fire Chief Leaving for Las Vegas

San Jose Fire Chief William McDonald will step down from his position after he was selected to serve as the head of Las Vegas’ fire department.

McDonald was nominated to become the Las Vegas fire chief by Betsy Fretwell, the city manager for Las Vegas. McDonald’s appointment is expected to be approved by the City Council there in July, according to a press release sent out by the city of San Jose.

McDonald has served as San Jose’s fire chief since August 2010. During that time, City Manager Debra Figone said his leadership, creativity, support as a city executive staff member and strong commitment to community engagement has played a significant role in the city’s leadership.

“He has successfully nurtured productive relationships both within the department and with our residents during a period of great challenge and change,” Figone said in a prepared statement.

No mention was made of the department’s inability to properly track its response times, an issue that has still not been fully explained.

McDonald said although he will miss San Jose and the people of the fire department, Las Vegas presents a unique opportunity for his career.

“I’m looking forward to advancing the work being done by the Las Vegas Fire Department in the field of pre-hospital emergency care, as well as continuing their leadership to achieve service efficiencies through interagency collaborations,” he said.

The San Jose Fire Department has 790 employees and an annual budget of approximately $163 million. Under McDonald’s management, the department obtained federal grants that helped the department retain and increase firefighter staffing levels, Figone said.

“Although I’m sad we’re losing Willie to Las Vegas, I am grateful for his service to San Jose and excited for him and his new opportunities,” Figone said. “I’m very confident that we have a strong team in place to lead our department through this transition until we select our next fire chief.”


  1. Well, there goes another one. When will this administration realize and admit the mess they have created? So many great, talented employees who have left and are leaving…in ALL departments, not just police and fire. Everyone talks only of police and fire but it is ALL departments. So much experience leaving the City of San Jose. It is an awful shame. They will not be able to make up for this loss of experience for years and years to come, all because of this mayor’s ego and the dunceness of some of the council; those same council members who now want to be mayor. No.No.No.No. Replace them so we can move forward to start healing this city. It will NEVER heal under ANY of their watches.

  2. Everything said about Willie Mac Is true , he is good leader , a good mentor , a good friend , a man of true faith , but more than anything else just an honest , good hearted individual. Those are words you will NEVER hear spoken of about this Mayor , City Manager and the rest of Reeds Posse. None of them possess the integrity of Willie Mac .
        So what does it say about this city , that a man like this would want to leave ?? Being the Gentleman that he is , willie would never badmouth San Jose or give the real reasons for his departure . San jose is in a Downward Spiral and believe me that is an understatement . Both P.D. & F.D. have lost their top brass , more than likely because they are tired of dealing with Mayor/City Managers B.S. and sheer mismanagement of city workers

    • If everything you say about Chief McDonald is true, he needs to stand up and tell everyone how bad it is. He has nothing to lose. Chief Moore didn’t say anything until he left. Way to late. Why is our City full of Department Heads who bury their heads in the sand. They have a responsibility to help change things. They would rather retire or leave. Very sad. I can’t respect those who in a place of authority don’t do what is needed to try to make things better. Are they that afraid that if they speak their minds they would lose their jobs? Very sad. If the Fire Chief and Police Chief start holding press conferences saying what the Mayor and Council are doing to our City, people will start to listen. Maybe now we’ll get some leaders who are willing to lead. I’m personally glad he’s leaving.

      • City Hall is full of something called “retaliation”. When you get on the wrong side of people…you pay for it, no matter how subtle. Plus, it doesn’t look good for people in high authority or actually any exiting employee, to publicly put down their former employee. It could stick with them on future job hunts. That is why you see so many people on these blogs under made up names…me included. I can understand why they do what they do. I am sure that you would not tell your “boss” what you think of him or her, would you? It is not a comfortable place to be.

  3. The mayor has so scorched and gutted the city workforce that the fire chief has done something he never thought he’d do: walk away from smoldering remains. But I guess after three years of trying to knock down an endlessly raging inferno of stupidity, it’s time for Chief McDonald to get out of the suffocating smoke and soot and take a big gulp of fresh air.

    But I wonder: how long a time in Vegas will it take Willie to cleanse himself of the Reed stench?

  4. This is just another tragic loss for the city. This guy is a class act and a great leader. This mayor and most of the city council, as well as the city manager, have done unimaginable damage to the city, no matter what happy face they want to put on it.

  5. Ouch.  This one is gonna hurt….bad.  We lost a really good man.  Unfortunately, the City Council, Mayor and City Manager really dont care.  I understand the move, and I understand his frustration with a dying City.  Good Luck Chief, we will sincerely miss you.

  6. This is so sad. Chief McDonald is an incredible leader, and a wonderful man. This is a huge loss to our City. I will really miss him.

    Good luck Chief, stay safe, and thank you for your service to our City.

  7. San Jose will fail in recruiting any future candidates for top positions with the decisions the city manager, mayor and council have been making.  The “I don’t care attitude ” they have is being noticed by others.  Just look at the police chief position, they found out that it was not as easy to fill as they thought.  Until the city manager, mayor and council show that public safety is a priority (not by just running at the mouth).  They will continue to fail.

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