SAN RAMON VALLEY -- The appointment of Paige Meyer to chief of the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District is somewhat of a homecoming for the 20-year firefighting veteran and current chief of the Vallejo Fire Department.

Meyer lived in San Ramon for 10 years before leaving in 2001 to be closer to his job in Vallejo.

"I'm humbled," he said of being selected to lead the district. "It's a great opportunity. It is nice to be a part of a district that I see strives for excellence all the time."

Meyer said he had no plans to leave Vallejo but that the job opening in the San Ramon Valley was too good to pass up.

"It's a coveted spot," he said. "It is always on the cusp of what's going on and has a fantastic reputation in the firefighting community."

Meyer, 43, was selected Feb. 27 over 33 applicants to replace Richard Price as chief of the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District. Price retired in January 2012 but stayed on for $1 a year until leaving for good Dec. 31. Meyer will receive an annual salary of $235,000 -- about 20 percent more than his Vallejo pay.

"We felt that Paige Meyer was the outstanding candidate and really a good choice for the district," fire district President Matt Stamey said. "He operated in an environment where there were money issues, labor relations issues, while providing coverage for the community he served."

Stamey said the board was impressed with Meyer's communication style and the fact that he had done his due diligence by speaking to stakeholders in the district to get an understanding of the issues. The district, which provides fire, rescue and emergency services in the San Ramon and Tassajara valleys, has been running a budget deficit for the past four years and been mired in contract negotiations with the firefighters union for the past two years. The board and the union have been at odds over pay, benefits and pension contribution concessions firefighters are being asked to make to balance the budget.

"I have dealt with tough economic times," Meyer said of his time in Vallejo. "But I'm confident we'll get everything figured out. I'm looking forward to working with everyone in the organization. We're going to move forward and work together."

Board member Gordon Dakin, who was supported by the union in the November elections, called Meyer a born leader.

"He navigated Vallejo through some difficult times financially," Dakin said. "He brings an enthusiasm and a record of being able to unite a working group with management."

Meyer's career began as a volunteer firefighter and later as a public safety officer in Sunnyvale. In 1998, he was hired in Vallejo and has held the positions of firefighter, captain, battalion chief and fire chief. He spent 15 years with the Vallejo Fire Department -- including 20 months as chief. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in public administration from California State University, Chico and an Associate of Science Degree in Fire Science from Butte College.

The married father of three young children lives in Walnut Creek but said he hopes to move back to the San Ramon Valley.

Contact Jason Sweeney at 925-847-2123. Follow him at Twitter.com/Jason_Sweeney.

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