MARTINEZ -- Contra Costa Fire District Chief Daryl Louder is calling it quits after two-and-a-half years in the Golden State.
The former Fairfax County, Va., fire chief told county supervisors in an email Monday that family obligations are pulling him back home, and he will retire on Oct. 31 from the $176,975-a-year job.
"It has been an ongoing challenge for my wife and I to reside in California when all of our family members live on the East Coast," wrote Louder, 58, who recently put his Concord house on the real estate market. "Now, we have family members who are experiencing health problems that require our closer attention and time."
Louder says he will devote the next seven months to helping the county's largest fire department deal with its serious financial problems and transition to a new fire chief.
"I appreciate Chief Louder giving us seven months' notice of his upcoming retirement," said Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Concord. "Family matters are always the first priority. I wish him well in his retirement."
The chief is retiring from full-time employment as a fire professional, but he will not collect a Contra Costa County pension, Louder confirmed. He would have had to work at least five years to become eligible for the benefit. Instead, he will receive retirement income from Virginia, he said.
The chief has had a rough time in Contra Costa, arriving in mid-2010 as the brunt of the housing market collapse hit his department's budget. The fire district depends almost solely on property taxes, which saw double-digit dips as home values plunged. The district's financial woes were exacerbated by rapidly rising firefighters' pension contribution rates.
Voters then nixed a temporary parcel tax last year that would have kept the agency somewhat intact, and the chief has been unhappily focused on shaving service and closing stations. Several members of the Board of Supervisors also have openly criticized the chief's job performance.
But Louder said that is not why he's leaving.
"Yes, it is a very challenging environment, but that's what they pay me to do, to make some difficult decisions," Louder said. "(The challenges had) nothing to do with my decision. It was strictly a personal decision."