Tucson fire chief quits

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Patrick Kelly was chosen to take over the Tucson Fire Department in October, 2008. By Bryce Potter Patrick Kelly was chosen to take over the Tucson Fire Department in October, 2008. By Bryce Potter

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The man brought in three years ago to run the Tucson Fire Department unexpectedly resigned on Monday.  City officials say an interim chief will be appointed in the next few days.

Patrick Kelly submitted his letter of resignation to City Manager Mike Letcher.  The date the resignation would become effective (March 26) was hand-written into the letter.

Kelly was hired in November, 2008, from Deland, Florida. 

In his letter of resignation, Kelly said, "I feel it is (sic) my best interests, and that of the Tucson Fire Department, to pursue other professional opportunities open to me."

Letcher sent a memo to the City Council praising Kelly, saying, he "has done an admirable job navigating the Fire Department through the last several years of budget and service reductions.  I wish him the best in his future endeavors."

Kelly's selection in 2008 was widely criticized by the rank and file of the department.  Many voiced concerns about bringing in an outsider to run the department.

Fox 11 sources say Kelly was told on Friday by Letcher to either resign by Monday or face termination on Tuesday.  One source said Kelly immersed himself into the controversy over whether city department heads should live inside the city limits.  The council passed an ordinance in 2008 requiring that, but recently considered changing it because Police Chief Roberto Villasenor would take a financial hit to sell his house on the northwest side and be forced to move into the city.  The source indicated Kelly's statements on the issue caused friction between the two major public safety departments in the city.

Fox 11 spoke to two members of the fire department after the announcement and both expressed relief Kelly had resigned.  One said it was the feeling of many members of the department that he was brought in to be an "axe man".  

Last December, Kelly wrote a memo to Letcher detailing a plan where he said he could save $5 million in the department budget in 2011 without losing any employees.  All would be done, he said, "through attrition."   The city is still in the budget process.