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Eugene Springfield fire chief resigns unexpectedly

The president of IAFF 851 says he was informed of the decision by city manager Jon Ruiz on Friday.

Posted: May 4, 2019 12:50 PM
Updated: May 4, 2019 8:57 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Eugene Springfield Fire Chief Joe Zaludek has resigned, citing personal reasons, according to a statement.

In a statement Zaludek said, "After 34 years of work in emergency services, I am announcing my retirement as I look forward to putting my family first and spending time with them. I want to recognize and commend the exceptional service provided by the crews of Eugene Springfield Fire. I am confident they will continue with their excellent work with the strong leadership that is in place."

Mike Caven, president of Lane Professional Firefighters, tells KEZI 9 News that he was informed of Zaludek's decision through an email from city manager Jon Ruiz on Friday.

"He liked to think outside the box. Sometimes in an organization like ours where we're pretty set in tradition and change is hard. It took a lot of fortitude for him to stand up in that environment and you know work to bring our organization together," said Caven.

Caven says he was integral in merging the communities of Eugene and Springfield together.

He also says that this comes as a huge surprise for not only him, but the entire organization.

"I know he was excited and proud to move our merger into the next phase," Caven said. 

Chris Heppel, currently the deputy chief for strategic services, has been named interim chief, according to Caven.

Jon Ruiz released a statement saying, "(Zaludek) has been an outstanding public servant whose dedication to the profession, the men of women of the Eugene Springfield Fire Department and the communities of Springfield and Eugene sets the bar high for the next Chief. Chief Zaludek was a pioneer in looking for new and better ways to get people the help they needed in the best way possible."

Ruiz went on to say, "Springfield City Manager Gino Grimaldi and I have appointed Chief Chris Heppel to serve as interim Chief. Next week, he and I will begin discussions on the process for hiring a new Chief."

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