Tucson fire chief talks about leaving department

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Fire Chief Patrick Kelly knew when it was time for him to hang up his hat in Tucson and he says the time was now.

"He (Mike Letcher) felt and I felt that we weren't on the same page and I think it's just time you know when its time to go, that was my decision to do and its pure and simple there's no more reading into that," said Fire Chief Kelly.

The difference of opinion between Kelly and City Manager Mike Letcher, led to speculation that Kelly was given the option to resign or be fired.  Chief Kelly says, his departure was a joint decision between he and his wife.

"I was not asked to leave I had a meeting with my boss, I decided and she supported me that it was the best thing to do was to say let's go out my terms when I want to go," said Kelly.

Letcher would not comment on his relationship with Chief Kelly.

Now the city must move on and find a interim and new chief. Kelly says he's been working with his assistant chiefs to take over the top job.

"I've been grooming my assistant chiefs to take my place I know I am not going to be here for ever I have groomed four assistant chiefs to be able to step in my place should I decide to leave," said Kelly.

Chief Kelly is leaving on March 26. The question is, should the city hire someone in the department or look outside?

"Search from without, but include applicants from within you know that's the thing do a nation wide search this is a high profile job, its a very important job and I don't think we should limit our applicant pool," said Councilmember Steve Kozachik.

As for chief Kelly's future, he wants to continue working possibly somewhere on the East Coast, to be close to his grand kids.

"I am not ready to retire at 58 years-old I have another ten years I want to work, that's what I wanted to do here it just didn't work out for me here," said Kelly.

There were reports that chief Kelly had been disciplined during his more than two years in Tucson.  That isn't true, however. The city's human resources department says there were no discipline reports in Kelly's records.