Palo Alto's long search for a new fire chief is finally over.
On Tuesday, City Manager James Keene announced his selection of Eric Nickel to oversee the Palo Alto Fire Department. Nickel, who beat out 36 other applicants for the job, will assume his duties on Nov. 13 and earn $184,830 per year.
"Eric has more than 25 years of experience in strategic planning and mentoring future leaders, as well as collaborating with the community," Keene said in a statement. "These skills are essential as we continue to move forward to build a sustainable model of fire service for the future."
For the past five years, Nickel has served as deputy chief for the Novato Fire Protection District. He oversaw the field operations division and managed a staff of 88 with a $29 million budget. Before that, he held the positions of battalion chief, captain and firefighter/paramedic.
Nickel joins a department that is undergoing a major metamorphosis. Within the past two years, its focus has shifted from fire protection to medical response, and there are no longer any minimum staffing requirements.
"My passion is community leadership and organizational excellence. It is exciting to be part of an extraordinary community with innovative, educated and passionate advocates," Nickel said in a statement. "I am eager to lead the dedicated, talented and professional men and women of the Fire Department to engage the community and generate shared solutions to make life safer."
Palo Alto police Chief Dennis Burns welcomed Nickel's hiring. When fire chief Nick Marinaro retired in June 2010, Burns was tapped to oversee the fire department as the city's new acting director of public safety.
"I look forward to working with such an energetic, enthusiastic and dedicated public safety professional," Burns said in a statement.
Nickel earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from California State University-Long Beach. He also completed the executive fire officer program at the United States National Fire Academy and is a chief fire officer after finishing the Center for Public Safety Excellence program.
Nickel is active in the community of Novato, sitting on both the Novato Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Novato Alumni Committee and the Novato Human Needs Center's board of directors.